Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown

During the depths of the Great Depression, Hitler decided to host the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin.  He used it as a means of showcasing Germany as a modern, clean, great place to live and, by the way, that he was not a crazy man bent on taking over Europe.  For a short time, he pulled it off.  Coincidentally, the U.S. west coast men's 8-oar crew teams were starting to take over ascendancy in the sport from the elite east coast schools.  Cal had represented the U.S. in 1932 and won and now Washington was looking to do the same in 1936. This is the story of that Washington team.

I can not praise this book enough.  It is so well written and researched that it pulls you deep into the sport and the difficult times in which the participants lived.  "Hard times" does not come close to describing many of their lives, especially the featured team member, Joe Rantz.  You feel as if you've experienced his life and some of the lives of those in that era.  At least as important, you really like these guys.  When the author takes you on the boat and starts you down the 2, 3, or 4000 yards to the finish, you almost feel like you're rowing with the team.  The closest book comparison is "Seabiscuit" by Laura Hillenbrand.  Mr. Brown may have done her one better, and that's saying something.  In the end, I'm not a good enough writer to give this book its proper due.  You can't go wrong reading this tale.

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