Sunday, December 21, 2014

Devil at My Heels: A Book Review

I first came across this back while I was on my college campus.  I saw a poster regarding an event that was related to the book and would be held in one of the campus buildings.  I didn’t think that much of it when I first saw it, but upon closer inspection, I became really interested in the story.  The cover immediately sucked me in as it mentioned that author Louis Zamperini (who I haven’t heard of previously) was an Olympian and a POW survivor in World War II.  I am definitely interested in anything having to do with World War II, so I decided to check out this book!

Title: Devil at My Heels: A heroic Olympian’s Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in World War II
Author: Louis Zamperini, David Rensin
Genre: Historical Nonfiction
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: January 21, 2003
Pages: 292
Out in Paperback?: Yes; February 3, 2004
My Rating: 5/5

Goodreads Summary:

A youthful troublemaker, a world-class NCAA miler, a 1936 Olympian, a WWII bombardier: Louis Zamperini had a fuller life than most. But on May 27, 1943, it all changed in an instant when his B-24 crashed into the Pacific Ocean, leaving Louis and two other survivors drifting on a raft for forty-seven days and two thousand miles, waiting in vain to be rescued. And the worst was yet to come when they finally reached land, only to be captured by the Japanese. Louis spent the next two years as a prisoner of war—tortured and humiliated, routinely beaten, subjected to medical experiments, starved and forced into slave labor—while the Army Air Corps declared him dead and sent official condolences to his family.

This is the remarkable true story of accomplishment, glory, disaster, survival, and true heroism made famous by Laura Hillenbrand in her #1 New York Times bestseller Unbroken. Told in Louis Zamperini’s own words, Devil at My Heels is a stirring memoir from one of the greatest of the “Greatest Generation,” a living document about the brutality of war, the tenacity of the human spirit, and the power of forgiveness.


Although “characters” aren’t relevant in this novel, Louis Zamperini is very interesting to read about, as he story is quite unique.  He opens up about his rebellious childhood and his horrific time as a Japanese POW.  Zamperini is an extremely courageous person, not only because of the events that he survived, but also because of his will to share them in this novel.


This novel begins by discussing Louis Zamperini’s rebellious childhood, one with drinking and smoking at a very young age and mischievous trouble.  Fortunately with the help of his family, particularly his brother, Zamperini finds the sport of running upon entering high school.  As he continued running, Zamperini found a love for the sport that took him to the 1936 Olympics.  During this time, World War II was on the brink of beginning, and Zamperini became a bombardier to help fight for the American cause.  Unfortunately, after a plane crash, Zamperini found himself fighting to survive in the middle of the ocean, only to become captured by the Japanese.  If you are at all squeamish about the treatment of POWs, then I would not recommend this book to you.  I cannot believe what Zamperini was put through at the camp, but I feel that, for me personally, it is important to hear from survivors about what really happened there and not to simply block it out because it is extremely horrific.  Zamperini shows tremendous courage throughout the entire novel and during his struggles; it is a very interesting read and puts things in life in perspective.

Writing Style:

The writing style of this novel was great; it very easily portrayed the events and chronicled the life of Louis Zamperini flawlessly.  It was easy to follow and broke down some of the military lingo (such as jobs, positions, etc.), which made for a smooth read.  I have heard there is another novel (titled Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand) that also details Louis Zamperini’s life, similar to this novel, however Unbroken is written by a different author and uses interviews from Zamperini.  I haven’t read this book, but to me is seems more interesting to hear about the events first-hand from the survivor, as it allows for more of the feelings and emotions behind the events to be shared.

Have you read this book?  What did you think?  Have you read Unbroken?  Are there major similarities or differences?  Are you planning on seeing the movie Unbroken?

FTC Disclaimer:
All items mentioned were purchased by me.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.  No affiliate links were used.

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