If you want to know why I loved this book read Jay Parini's review in The Guardian from July of 2013. He explains it better than I ever could.
The Boys in the Boat was very nearly perfectly narrated by Edward Herrman, who for me has become THE voice of great historical nonfiction, bios and memoirs.
Sharply Opinionated Know-it-all. Gallows Humor. Hollywood Insider.
Brown's attention to detail anchors this showstopping underdog story. Impossible not to root for these boys as they attempt to achieve the unthinkable. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Hermann's performance was stellar. The one exception was his mispronunciation of certain proper nouns in the Pacific Northwest region.
Just as any South Dakotan knows that capital city Pierre is pronounced "Peer" . . . anyone from Washington, Northern Idaho and Western Montana would pronounce the "Bon" in "Bon Marche" like "Bon as in Yawn". Likewise, "Kootenai" is pronounced "Koo-ten-nee". Finally, "Coeur d’Alene" is pronounced "Core-duh-Lane" by natives.
Hermann mispronounced all three - seemingly to rely on phonetics and French origins. No excuses for this. Producer or someone should have checked this out. The Washington Boys are rowing in their graves.
Like everyone, I like a good story about overcoming daunting odds, persevering despite the curve balls life throws at you. This is what this story is about. It centers around Joe and his epic struggles through honestly his youngest and most formative years. It proceeds through his life and ultimately to the culmination of all of his efforts, to the 1936 olympics in Berlin. Everyone roots for the underdog and it'll make you tear up b/c you can honestly at times feel the pain he felt and the sweet taste of victory as well.
Expected, but it still had quite an impact b/c you went through such an emotional journey with Joe, the main character in the book. Even if you know the results, you don't know the journey, which is what made the ending special.
Joes girlfriend and father on the side of the course when Washington raced Cal and Joe finally getting that feeling of racing for someone other than himself, someone else being able to see what he made of himself.
I think the book was too slow to progress; it seems like it took chapters to get to much in the way of anything interesting. I understand that the character development was critical in order to give the reader the true impact of the looming success, but I honestly thought about trading the book in for the first few hours. Ultimately glad I listened to it, but man...a bit slow in the first 25%
The historical detail is fantastic. Although, if you're not from the Pacific Northwest, and generally familiar with the area, I could see it becoming tedious. The story is generally an interesting one, and the author propels it forward well. The language can be a bit overwrought and oddly pseudo-spiritual at times. My main complaint is this- the narrator does an otherwise great job, but in a book in which geographic detail and place description is at the heart of the story, he mispronounces way too many place names. Way too many. It can be very distracting.
The combination of the amazing author skills of Daniel James Brown--along with the outstanding narrating ability of Edward Hermann--blew me away!
These nine athletes pull together in a quiet determination in preparation for the greatest achievement of their lives. They didn't have the money of some of the other teams, or the best clothing or living arrangements--what they had was some of the most remarkable resolve to maintain their goals and support for the team --each and every one of them. Not to be left out is the shell builder, George Pocock, who had as much influence on the boys as anyone. His dedication to making the perfect shell is quite a story in itself--I found out much more about this sport than I thought I would.
Listening to the winning race was breathtaking. I knew how the race ends- we all do - but I wasn't able to keep from being nervous and cheering the American team on as though I was in the stands. That is what this narrator does--just like in Unbroken, he pulls you in.
Everything came together at that time in history--the right team, the right coach, an amazing shell builder, and their combined efforts to achieve a once in a lifetime moment.
A must listen!
I found the propaganda efforts in Germany one of the most disgusting parts of the story--the fake front they were able to put up for the world during that time was nauseating -as well as Hitler's efforts to unfairly give advantages to the German team over the other's --this was a very small portion of the story, yet had to be included. It makes this story even more amazing.
I chose to make The Boys in the Boat my last finished book of 2015 because I thought it might have personal meaning to me. This is the year that I took up rowing at the gym. I found that I loved rowing. I can get lost in the rhythm of the stroke. The other thing that I've tried to do this year is work in more non-fiction. In the past, I've found non-fiction a more difficult listen at the gym because if it isn't compelling, my mind is more likely to wander. I didn't have that loss-of-focus issue AT ALL with The Boys in the Boat.
If you think this is a book about rowing, then you are only partly right. It's about rowing as Unbroken was about running. In fact, I'd say if you liked Unbroken (and who didn't?), then you will devour this book in much the same glee. The Boys in the Boat is a human story that delves in what pushes us - at least some of us - to move beyond what we have defined as our limits. In that regard, it shares a theme with Unbroken. Another thing it shares is that it is beautifully written. There is not a moment of labor in the writing. Daniel James Brown writes it with a simple elegance.It just flows naturally and with grace. Please don't take that to mean it's slow or in any way boring. It is neither slow nor boring!
Finally, like Unbroken, The Boys in the Boat was read by Edward Herrmann. He has a great voice for this kind of book. As a Seattleite, I did notice that he butchered a few local place-names, like Alki, which he referred to more than once as if it were Alkee. But he got the important ones right, like Sequim.
I can't end this review without saying that there is something spiritual about The Boys in the Boat. Reading it lifts us up. The boys, especially and completely in that last gold metal race in Berlin, discover a different kind of faith. Together we are more than the mere sum of our individual selves. It's an American character largely lost in the divisiveness of today.
I heartily recommend The Boys in the Boat. There is a reason it has been on the best-sellers list for well over a year. It's a great book and a great delight to listen to.
With almost 800 books in my library, I am an experienced listener. I appreciate a well written good story. I am pretty critical of trash.
I had good recommendations from friends for this book and was looking forward to it. I really enjoyed the human interest stories of the characters, but the endless descriptions of the intricacies of rowing skills and psychological requirements finally ended my endurance. I am not sure if I am going to finish it. The outcome is a given, and no, it is not a mystery, BUT, at some point what's the point, unless one is going to try out for crew or wants to coach. I think I would have enjoyed the book if the details of rowing had been reduced by seventy-five percent. The narrator was neither a distraction nor an asset. I do think it is a shame, because the story of the main character was well written and interesting. The sense of history and social context was great, especially the impact of the depression.
Please understand, I think Edward Herrmann has a melodic, compelling voice. His delivery is great... when he's not mispronouncing Pacific NW names. Having grown up in Seattle, I can understand the difficulty, there are some unusual ones. But I cringed every time he said Post Intelli- GEN-cer, and Boh-Marche. Several place names of American Indian origin were also mangled. Surely SOMEONE could have helped with these and made an excellent book, perfect.
The narrator mispronounces so many local place names--Alki, Skagit, Suzzallo, Ephrata, Chehalis, even Oregon! This Northwest native found it grating, not to mention sloppy for a book so likely to be read by UW alumni and WA natives alike. If you can get past it, it's a good read otherwise.
While I was reading this book I thought reading books like this is what makes life worth living. Oh I wish I could find more books like this -- exciting, inspirational, struggles, pain, perseverance, heroes.
My favorite quote: Joe’s girlfriend was angry about something done to Joe and said to him “I just don’t understand why you don’t get angry.” Joe said “It takes energy to get angry. It eats you up inside. I can’t waste my energy like that and expect to get ahead. When they left, it took everything I had in me just to survive. Now I have to stay focused. I’ve just got to take care of it myself.”
MY ONE COMPLAINT:
There are pictures in the physical book, but NO PICTURES for audiobook buyers. To the author and publisher: Please include pictures in a PDF file for audio buyers to download.
Fred Hermann was fabulous – clear voice, good interpretations. He reads like he’s interested in what he’s reading. He should do more books.
Narrative mode: 3rd person.
Genre: nonfiction, sports history.