For readers of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit and Unbroken, the dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Daniel James Brown's robust book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.
The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together - a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.
Drawing on the boys' own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times - the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam's The Amateurs.
©2013 Daniel James Brown (P)2013 Penguin Audio
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
Many reviews offer comparisons of this book to Seabiscuit, appropriately so as the themes and narrative tone are remarkably similar. But I also see a strong resemblance to another American Olympic story that happened 4 decades later – our “Miracle on Ice” hockey team of 1980. In both cases global hostilities threatened Olympic boycotts, potentially crushing the once-in-a-lifetime dreams of humble college kids taking on the State subsidized titans of their sports. But the games were held, and against all odds (some of them suspicious in their advantages to the two Fascist teams) the kids rose to the occasion. This is not a spoiler – it’s well known that they win. The real drama is in the story that got them there in the first place. Brown writes that story effectively, developing the social, economic and political context, and fleshing out the characters: Coach Ulbrickson who struggled to find the right team chemistry among his talented rowers, employing crushingly superhuman training standards to ensure top conditioning. There is also shell builder George Pocock, who dispensed Yoda-like wisdom to the boys about the intangible qualities that make up a crew as opposed to a team. And of course the boys in the boat, whose own stories are compelling, especially Joe's, but several others are well highlighted.
Edward Herrmann’s flawless reading is smooth, clear and authoritative, yet also intimate in the telling of the very personal stories of Depression era America and early Third Reich Germany, as teams of rowers approached the race of a lifetime, that to the world was more than just a boat race. And just a side note - you can find video of the race on Youtube.
With a 4 1/2 hour commute to work, it's not hard for me to find time to listen to a good audiobook.
‘The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympic’ is a tireless story of triumph that endures beyond cliché and predictability. Reflective of a time where a generation of Americans was tested through the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, this true story of Joe Rantz and his eight University of Washington boat crew teammates follows their journey from humble origins detailing their sense of national pride and self determination to take on elite boat crews around the globe. The novel culminates into a true David and Goliath showdown between the Americans and the German national team at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
The drama within the novel lies more with the interpersonal stories than just the action on the water, but you will not be disappointed by author Daniel Brown’s balance and character development. This is a story that could easily be fraught with predictability, but it never happens. The novel has so much depth and narration so flowing, you will still be glued to the headphones with anticipation of finding out how the details of the story unfold.
Given Edward Herrmann’s remarkable storytelling of ‘Unbroken’ and ‘The Johnstown Flood’, he is undoubtedly the best, natural choice for narrator. Herrmann brings Dan Brown’s words to life with a balance of smooth calmness, wit, and explosive theatrics in storytelling that few narrators have mastered.
If you enjoy literary non-fiction audiobooks like ‘Unbroken’ by Laura Hillenbrand or ‘The Worst Hard Time’ by Timothy Egan, I promise that you will not be disappointed listening to ‘Boys in The Boat’.
Fascinating, exciting and captivating
There were actually several, but most had to do with how the lads had to push themselves beyond what they (and others) thought possible.
Edward Herrmann is an excellent narrator, so I don't believe the problem is with him. Before a book is recorded, a staffer should be assigned to pick out ALL proper nouns, especially place names, and call a local Chamber of Commerce or somewhere to ascertain how these nouns are pronounced locally/correctly. This is not the first book where this has been a very big distraction for me, just the latest. Yes, the Pacific Northwest has some complicated and strangely named towns, but, in fact, so do places everywhere. As I listened, it was disruptive to mentally correct the pronunciations and eventually became frustrating at something so easily remedied. Again, Mr. Herrmann is a wonderful narrator. His voice mellifluous, his infusion of life into the characters sine qua non. Publishers, please...take the moments required to get the pronunciations right.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
When non-fiction really works, for me it's because there's a magical combination of a well-paced great story, good solid characters and a perfect narrator. That is precisely what "The Boys in the Boat" is all about.
I don't need to review the plot. It's all there in the intro. This is the best way I can describe this book: if you couldn't put "Seabiscuit" down, this is your book. It's a wonderful little slice of history that's written and narrated in a compelling way. If you have a long car trip this summer, this is the perfect book for a mixed audience.
Tangential, eclectic, avid listener... favorite book is the one currently in ear.
I was so slow purchasing this one... but 3700 other readers ranking it at a 5 aren't wrong. It is a gentle, plain but uplifting account of how 9 young Americans, the product of the great depression and dust bowl overcame all odds to win the 1936 Berlin Olympics. You know how it is going to end from the title... but clear to the win you aren't really sure it can possibly happen.
I love how it is nestled into history. My elderly family members don't want to read "Unbroken" or other WWII and depression era stories. "We lived it and don't want to hear about it anymore" they tell me. Although Brown, ties you into the Dust Bowl, Great Depression, the New Deal and start of WWII... this isn't a focus on what they endured, rather is there only to show how it made them stronger. I think they will love this one.
The narrator did great... you can tell he isn't from the Northwest, the place names, just didn't come from the mouth of a native. Still a 5 star narration.
Yes. While we know how it ends, the journey to get there is worth hearing over and over again.
His voice can deliver a story
How the seemingly ordinary can be extraordinary
Despite some over-the-top up turns of phrase and descriptions (think Cold Mountain) that trigger several eye rolls, as well as Edward Herman's tortured pronunciations of Washington place names (not sure that is actually his fault-where was quality control?), the story is just a great one. Growing up in Washington and attending UW, I've always known the story without knowing the STORY. And it's a great one. You can't help but beam with pride and unquestionably admire what these ordinary folks accomplished in some of the toughest times in America.
Say something about yourself!
Daniel James Brown takes a story about nine "boys," shows us how those "boys" were just regular people like the rest of us. And then he tells a wonderful tale of how, by committing to one another, they achieve something truly great. This is a book that highlights a little-remembered moment in history that is was so remarkable, it's chill-inducing.
I do want to add the cautionary note that after reading this book, there is a high likelihood that you will lose several hours on YouTube, watching the amazing footage of these young men at the Berlin Olympics.
One can never really go wrong when combining the stellar Edward Hermann with a great story. But in addition to that, this is a story everyone can relate to. It is about hard times, it is about pain, both physical and emotional. It is about fear. It is about going forward despite those things.
The sport of rowing has sadly devolved into being viewed as a very elitist activity. But from the late 1800s well into the later part of the last century, crew was a wildly popular sport, akin to baseball today. THE BOYS IN THE BOAT brings alive these nine young men, from humble--and even horrible--backgrounds and tells how they captured the attention of the entire world.
This book showcases one of the most demanding sports there is, and how these boys used that sport to quietly put Hitler in his place.
It's not really a character, but rather a moment that sticks out for me in this book. It is Hermann's narration of the final race at the Olympics. I already knew the result. But his description of the actual race--written captivatingly by Brown--had me on the edge of my chair. I found myself upset, anxious, pacing...and ultimately cheering.
I do want to add that I really loved the character of George Pocock, who built his handmade wooden racing shells with the quiet spirit of a Zen master. His quotes, which preface each chapter, can most assuredly be applied to rowing. But why stop there? Use them in life, as well.
"Chariot of Fire"--with oars. You will cheer!!
This is one of those rare books that can capture any reader. I've given it to friends who love crew--naturally, they loved the book. But I've also given it to my 80-year-old mother, who loved it despite having no interest in rowing whatsoever. I've given it to my BFF, who mostly reads romances and frothy mysteries--and she loved it.
To date, I've purchased 13 copies of this book, both in hard copy and audio. I've received back a 100% recommendation! Everyone loves this book.
In a few years, this book will be a fabulous film and it will sweep the Oscars. Read it now, so you can say "Oh yes. I read that story when it first came out. Great book. Better than the movie actually." ; )
Elle AKA PlantCrone..I'm an organic gardener, quilter, volunteer and elder who enjoys different genres from biographies to si/fi to fantasy
Inspiring, heart warming and a great listen, "The Boys in the Boat" really got to me. Edward Hermann was the perfect narrator for Daniel Browns story of a group of 17-20 year olds, all of whom strive to be the best at what they are doing. It follows them from Freshmen thru their Senior year as well as also following the evolution of a boatbuilder who refined the wood ships that were then the only ships available.
Even though they weren't necessarily the best students scholastically they are the type of teens I wish were around now. Living in the NorthWest as I do, I was surprised I hadn't heard about the Huskies Rowing Crew of 1936. After finishing my non stop listen, I called my sister and brother, both of whom went to U-Dub, which is, for some reason I haven't yet learned, is the locals nickname for Washington State University in Seattle. The story takes place during the depression and also describes the hard work the young team members did to pay their tuition and the evolution of the Dust Bowl which happened at the same general period of time.
These guys rowed in the 8 man boat in the 1936 Olympics, which were held in Berlin prior to the start of Hitlers rise to fame. While Germany swept all the other rowing awards, this team from the boonies, made up of loggers, fisherman's and farmers sons competed for against 4 years against the elite song men from Princeton, Yale, Navy, and other 'upper class' and wealthy of the East Coast. About the only other West Coast team mentioned was the Olympic Medal willing Cal State team from Berkley, who won Olympic Gold for 2 years prior to and several years after U-Dub's big win.
Daniel Brown injects a bit of humor into this biography of a cedar boat when he writes about the huge class differences between the coasts when writes about the differences in rowing apparel. Everyone from the East Coast schools wore nice and matching uniforms while the Husky team wore old sweats and mismatched T-shirts..even when rowing at the Olympics.
This is the kind of story that makes me proud to be both an American and a NorthWesterner. It is an ideal listen for long family road trips and is sure to inspire teens towards athletic endeavors-not just crewing.
Good also for anyone who enjoys sports stories and even WWII or depression era novels. I also decided to purchase "Unbroken", another biographically oriented novel about the same Olympics-and it's narrated by Edward Hermann also. As many of you know, "Unbroken" has been made into a movie-and I think "The Boys in the Boat" should also be made into a film, if it hasn't been yet.
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
You would not have thought that a book about crew and I would be at all compatible! My only knowledge of rowing comes from when I was a kid shuffling my Dad from one place to another while he caught no fish. I always took a book!
No matter, this listen is for everyone. The writing and the boys of the title are so sublime that the story skims along - as quick and lightly as "The Boat" itself. Daniel James Brown has taken exactly the right approach to telling the tale. He chose a few individuals whose compelling personal lives frame the excitement of the sports action with emotion and genuine feeling. Then he finished with the extraordinary circumstances of that particular Olympics of 1936.
It's a crackerjack combination. I am so grateful that I chose this Audible offering - mostly on a whim. Brown's exemplary writing, the inspiration of the story, and the perfectly measured voice of Edward Herrmann create an almost transcendent listening experience! An amazing book!! I am in awe!
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.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.