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January 30, 2017

The Boys in the Boat


The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Nonfiction - Nautical
2013 Penguin Audio
Read by Edward Herrmann
Finished on September 19, 2016
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

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.

This really should have been a 5-star book for me, what with the perfect ingredients of boats and the Pacific Northwest setting. I love being on and around the water and have spent a bit of time on Lake Union in Seattle. 10 years ago, I sat on the aft deck of my dad and stepmom's boat, watching several groups of rowers make their way back and forth across the lake. I was quite envious! I've never rowed in a scull, but I owned a kayak for a few years and enjoyed paddling around on a local lake. I've always thought rowing would be a great way to be out on the water, not to mention the great workout.






So when I first learned about Brown's book, I was intrigued. Hearing that the book reads like a novel made it even more appealing. I started out with the print edition, but couldn't get interested, so I moved on to the audio. I thought the book started off a little slow, but I stuck with it, hoping things would pick up as the Olympics drew closer. I was interested in the sections that dealt with Germany and the preparations for the Olympics, but otherwise, the details about the rowing and the boys' lives became tedious to listen to. Edward Hermann did a fine job with the narration, but I found my mind wandering and really had to force myself to pay attention. 

Final Thoughts:

It took me almost three weeks to listen to 14 1/2 hours of narration and I have to say, I was glad to be finished. It's certainly not a bad book, but it wasn't what I was expecting. I thought I was in the minority, but my husband (who loves everything nautical and preferably nonfiction) didn't even finish reading it, so I don't feel too badly for giving it such a low rating.

10 comments:

  1. Probably one of those books that either works for you really doesn't. I'm suspecting it would not be for me, though I do love to row on a machine. It's mindless and kind of soothing.

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    1. Kay, I've only used a rowing machine a few times (at the gym I used to belong to), but I enjoyed it, too.

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  2. Thanks for sharing this one. I thought it might be for me (I'm an occasional kayaker, too) but I think I'll pass.

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    1. Deb, you still might enjoy it. I know a lot of readers did.

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  3. I'm not very sporty, so this book isn't for me. I like pootling about in a boat, but that's about it!
    Miss Cellany.

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    1. Miss Cellany, I've just popped over to your blog and have thoroughly enjoyed reading your past dozen or so posts. Thank you so much for stopping by and saying hello!

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  4. I see this was just so-so for you and, now I'm glad I did't try it. I did see a few positive reviews but, I just didn't think I'd like this one.

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    1. Diane, yes there have been a few positive reviews and I wish I could add my name to that list, but it wasn't to be.

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  5. There really was too much detail about every race and the making of the boats for it to be a real page turner. There was so much to be interested in, I just found myself skimming a lot.

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    1. Lisa, I'm glad to know that I wasn't the only one who felt there was too much detail. I suppose letting my mind wander is a way of skimming while listening to an audio. :)

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