Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Review of The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (2013, Viking)
Rather than simply focus solely on Rantz and his fellow crew, Brown tells a multi-layered story, weaving together strands that detail the development of rowing at UW in the 1920s and 30s, the personal trajectories of coaches and master boat builder, George Pocock, their rivalry with the University of California, and rowing in the US more generally, the Great Depression, and how the Nazis orchestrated the 1936 Olympics. The result is a richly contextualised, fascinating, and highly entertaining tale, rich in personal biographies, historic occasions, and high emotion and drama. Despite all its moving parts, Brown’s narrative is beautifully structured, never losing coherence, and his voice very engaging. In short, I found I couldn’t put the book down since I was so wrapped up in the lives, the history, the races of Joe and his crew, and the Great Depression and the 1936 Olympics. My read of the year so far.