Book Review

Review: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Boys in the Boat

 

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Audience: YA+, no language, no violence
Length: 416 pages
Author: Daniel James Brown
Publisher: Viking
Release Date: June 4th, 2013
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

For readers of Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit and Unbroken, the dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam’s The Amateurs.

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A HEARTWARMING BOOK.

My star rating may not reflect the fact that I truly did enjoy this book. There was some fundamental things for me personally that caused me to lower the rating.

The not so good juju first. The author writes really beautiful prose. I truly could picture exactly what it was like in the 30’s. This was also an issue for me. There was so so so much description and side-winding that I found myself skimming quickly to get to the actual story.

This caused me to get frustrated occasionally wanting to continue the story, but having to fly through things and I think a lot of the extra fluff could have been removed. I didn’t need such exact descriptions of a town, or a boat to get the whole picture. I would’ve liked more history on the boys (rather than just Joe) though I do realize that may be because he was the longest living of the group. There could be limitations I am not aware of.

What I did love was the story itself. It was heartfelt and Brown did a lot of research to make this book what it is. They’re multiple sides to the tale as he mostly writes from Joe’s angle, but also describes what is happening in Germany and with other team members / coaches, etc. He builds a unique sphere of realizing so many other things are happening in the world, while the world is also heading towards a war, all without each other acknowledging the moves.

Joe’s story is one of heartbreak, and ultimately finding himself whole again through rowing. I was just as angry as Joyce (his love) hearing what he had to go through at such a young age and the unfairness of his world.

I was riveted reading the paragraphs of the races. On the edge of my seat (even when you know who wins) because the author scripts it, that well. Those boys rowing together were the best portions, and the epilogue referring to the fact they met every 10 years to do it again? Oh, my heart. The bond this team had to accomplish what they did is powerful.

Overall audience notes:
— A clean book that younger to older audiences would enjoy
— No language
— Descriptions of war-time Germany