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

  • Posted on: 16 August 2014
  • By: TedG

As reported by Adrian

There were six in attendance at the July meeting to discuss The Boys in the Boat, one of whom was a new member. Welcome, Roberto!

In an email, Ron called it “one of our best books,” and this was echoed by the others at the meeting.

“Good candidate for Book of the Year.”

“Great story.”

“Joe [Rantz; the story’s protagonist] was a good human interest character.”

Those feelings also came through in the rankings, which averaged 4.75 for both Interest and Readability (out of 5) and 4.5 for our group’s interest in reading another book by Daniel James Brown.

But not everyone agreed. Someone (and I am taking this from Adrian’s notes) thought the book was “too good for us,” that it was “too serious.” Someone else suggested that the book could have done a better job of weaving together the story threads of the Great Depression, rowing, and geopolitics. It is possible I am interpreting these comments incorrectly, and that the opposite of how I have portrayed them here was the actual intent of those who said them. Apologies if that is the case.

Interesting coincidence: our August book was to be Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, the story of one man’s fight to survive after his plane is shot down and he is captured during World War II. The protagonist of that story––Louis Zamperini––was a long-distance runner who also competed in the 1936 Olympics, just as “the boys in the boat” did. Zamperini makes a very brief cameo in Boys in the Boat when Brown relates that “no one––with the possible exception of Louis Zamperini, the long-distance runner from Torrance, California––out-ate Joe Rantz.”