The Boys In The Boat (Review)

As I tap out this book review an hour after completing my read of the book, I’m still pleasantly stunned by the experience. I need to choose my superlatives carefully so I don’t come off as a shill for the publisher.  Too many kudos can spoil the review and the recommendation for a book.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut I’m still wondering how to categorize Daniel James Brown’s The Boys In The Boat–Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It’s certainly a non-fiction book, but it reads like a novel. I should just say that it’s an inspirational thriller with scholarly endnotes.

The Boys In The Boat is set amongst a background of intercollegiate sports rivalry, the grinding harshness of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, the ascent of Adolf Hitler’s cruel regime, and the glory of the Olympic Games.  Add to these elements the heartrending story of a castaway boy and his working-class teammates. The story works in harmony with the determination of the coaches and the wisdom of the boat builder. Before you’ve finished reading the Prologue, you’ll find the book difficult to put down.  There are many instances this reader had to catch his breath or wipe away a tear.

The main character of the story is the destitute Joe Rantz from Sequim, Washington.  He manages to earn a place on the University of Washington Crew team. In addition to the other seven team members, the story involves coachs Al Ulbrickson and Tom Bolles along with master craftsman George Pocock.  Some of the story’s supporting characters include Rantz’s girlfriend Joyce Simdars, Reich propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler and cinematographer Leni Riefenstahl.BoysInBoat-crew

Each chapter begins with a pithy quote from George Pocock. The storyline proceeds from two points of view.  Developments around Joe Rantz and the building of the Nazi propaganda machine in concert with construction of the Olympic venue. I could find no weaknesses in content nor style in any of the chapters. I was pleasantly surprised to find photographs placed throughout the book, on appropriate pages.

If I could hand out Olympic awards, I’d present Mr. Brown with a Gold Medal for his storytelling skills in composing this book.

{ The Boys In The Boat–Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics written by Daniel James Brown; First Edition published June 2013 by Viking. ISBN: 978-0-670-02581-7 }

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The Blue Jay of Happiness ranks The Boys In The Boat several notches above W.J. Weatherby’s Chariots of Fire.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, cultural highlights, History, Politics, sports, Youth and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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