Book review – The Boys in the Boat

Just finished reading The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, Barry’s selection for our latest West Surrey Boys and the Book Club.

Boys in the boat

Essentially a sports book, its tag-line is An Epic Journey to the Heart of Hitler’s Berlin. But it does so much more than tell the story of the Washington University’s all-conquering nine-man rowing team and their quest to win the gold medal at the 1936 Olympic games.

The author skilfully weaves the narrative around Joe Rantz, a young lad abandoned by his family and struggling to find his way in the world. But it also reveals much about the Great Depression in the USA in the 1920s and 1930s, and the rise of Hitler’s National Socialists in Germany at much the same time.

And it’s a morality tale of the American Dream, and how the impoverished sons of loggers, farmers and shipyard workers pulled together to defeat their local rivals from California University, more privileged rivals from Ivy league colleges on the East Coast, then the elite teams of Oxford & Cambridge, and – ultimately – the representatives of Hitler’s Third Reich, in the German boat at the infamous Berlin Olympics, just 3 years before the outbreak of World War II.

A vast amount of research, from talking to Joe before his death in 2007 at the age of 93, from journals of the rowers and their esteemed coaches, newspaper reports and much more, has resulted in a long book of close to 400 pages.

But I hung on every word, enjoying the historical, political and emotional under-currents, as much as the perfect synchronicity of the team’s minds and oars in every race.

Already being called Chariots of Fire on Water, I can’t wait to see the book retold on the movie screen. The Weinstein Company have recently announced the cast….Daniel Radcliffe and Bradley Cooper will star, Ken Branagh will direct. Prepare to be pulled along on a tide of emotion.

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