There is little wonder why Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand has been atop the New York Times Best Seller List since its publication last year.

The epic story  of the survival, resilience and redemption of  Lieutenant Louis Zamperini is a triumphant accomplishment . It is a literary and historical work by Hillenbrand worthy of the highest accolades. Unbroken equals and in its research even surpasses the excellence of Hillenbrand’s wonderful  Seabiscuit . Warning, it is a disturbing read

Hillenbrand traces the life of Louis Zamperini from delinquent teen to local track hero and Olympian to a World War Two  B-24 bombardier shot down with his crew over the Pacific. Forty seven days in a raft first with three fellow crew members, then  only two. The horror of that ordeal is trumped by his capture and incarceration for two and a half years as a  Japanese POW under the most sadistic circumstances imaginable. Zamperini’s story of human survival defies belief. Hillenbrand’s  research and writing misses no detail, including the story of Louie’s Post Traumatic Syndrome long before anyone had diagnosed the tragedy of post combat emotional illness.

Unbroken’s historical perspective on the war in the Pacific ranks Hillenbrand’s writing in a league with  Stephen Ambrose (D-Day) and ( Citizen Soldiers), James Bradley ( Flyboys),  Jeff Shaara ( The Final Storm), and Doug Stanton ( In Harms Way-The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis).

It is not easy to  digest Hillenbrand’s  descriptions of the horror’s faced by Louie Zamperini and thousands of other POW’s but the outcome is triumphant for the author, the reader and Louie Zamperini! 

There are many months ahead for this great book on top of best seller lists, and it is most deserving of a place in your personal library.

Thank you Laura Hillendrand.

Lord of Misrule. No Seabiscuit or Secretariat Here!

 The most ardent  “rail bird”  will find Jaimy Gordon’s description of the world of horse racing at third-rate, down on their heels race tracks absolutely illuminating, intriguing and at times both sad and downright hilarious.   You will also find it surprising that Jaimy Gordon is not a rail bird at all but rather a college professor.   Her vivid portrait of the world or “underworld” of horseracing has earned her the National Book Award for Fiction.

You will  not find a Seabiscuit or Secretariat story in Lord of Misrule.  No heroes here. Only no-name horses, jockeys, trainers, hot walkers, grooms, blacksmiths, promoters and owners struggling, cajoling, doing whatever necessary to make dinner! 

No one in the grandstand, at the window or even on the rail  in Lord of Misrule has an inkling of what is going on in the barns behind the track. The side deals, the fix, claimers,  stalking horses, ice buckets, butte, you name it and Jaimy Gordon makes it real.   Her characters, mostly a tragic lot, are the personification of a world known to very few. The author has uncovered the grimness of horseracing, and the pathetic daily lives of those who survive in this gritty world.

Lord of Misrule is a fast read but the book will capture you long before the first race. A bit of history from Wikipedia.   In Britain  in the sixteenth century, the Lord of Misrule was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the ” Feast of Fools!”   Appropriate title, Jaimy.