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
Who would have thunk it ? They won ! ooops Spoiler Alert !
Actually all the races they lost…and their Coach still had faith in their abilities.
Whenever they "got their SWING"…I could just picture the boat zipping across the water.
I laways felt sorry for Joe Rentz who was so neglected as a child by his step mother and thus his father. He rose above it all and founf a brotherhood with crew and rowing with the boys.
Funny, that this was the same Olympics as Louis Zampirini ( of Unbroken fame) and Jessie Owens (running). Such stars…and so many went on to serve in WWII. What an amazing time in history and right under the false propaganda of the Nazi's. Germany did a good job of disguising their anti-semitic plan in 1936. Please read and treat yourself to a great golden nugget of history. Well TOLD !
I loved how heartwarming this story was, despite the hard times the nation was facing. The characters were so well developed that you wanted to cheer them on.
The play by play narration of the races.
My favorite scene was when Joe gets placed in the final varsity boat, all his team mates welcome him, and he finally fits in.
No- it wasn't a riveting book, but rather slowly developed the story and the characters. I enjoyed listening to one chapter/ hour at a time.
I've never rowed, and knew nothing about the sport before hearing this book, but nonetheless I really "got" the racing strategy employed by Coach Ulbrickson and enacted by the coxswain Bobby Moch, especially during the races at Poughkeepsie, NY, and in Berlin. I grew to also understood the importance of the stroke position, the rower closest to the cox, seated face to face, only 18 inches away. (In this case, the stroke was Don Hume.) Finally, I saw why a dream team is rare indeed — so perfectly attuned that eight row as one to the tune of the cox, creating the perfect "swing" that makes a boat sing.
This turned out to be a solid gold audiobook. Despite the title, the book doesn't portray all the boys in the Olympic boat. Mostly, this was the story of one boy, Joe Rantz. A good choice, since my sympathies were definitely with him, because of the abandonment and cold-stone cruelty he endured from his own family, with a B for a stepmother and a weakling for a father. (Thank goodness for a great girlfriend, Joyce.) I liked all the boys in the boat, though, and wanted to hear more about them. We do find out what happened to all nine boys after the Olympics, including how they stayed bonded as friends for life, which I did appreciate.
Told in 3rd person, the book flashes back and forth between America and Germany, mainly from 1933-1936, even though the book begins in 1899. The author did a good job portraying the huge farce the Nazi party presented to the world at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. He showed Berlin beautified and polished by the propaganda machine and Berlin behind the facial.
There are lots of photos and videos online, to augment the story. It was a major historic moment, when the Washington Huskies won gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. With eight men rowing, plus a coxswain steering and calling the shots, this calls for teamwork almost at the cellular level, because every oar must strike the water simultaneously, with equal pull, and also quickly, as many as an astounding 44 strokes per minute. In front of the smugly self-satisfied Nazis, the boys carried the boat — despite several handicaps — across the finish line for a come-from-behind victory, much like in Seabiscuit: An American Legend (that horse is mentioned a few times in this book).
Set during the same time period, the book also reminded me of Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, coming to the big screen this winter.
Quibbles: Not quite five stars, because the author spent just a bit too much time on the mechanics of rowing and described too many races, including some races not involving these boys. He also spent too much time describing the Berkeley rowing team, especially the Cal coach. I wanted to hear more about the nine boys. I wanted to hear how the Washington Huskies came to respect and befriend Joe, and stopped calling him names because he was poverty stricken and always wore the same ragged sweater (Hobo Joe, Ragtime Cowboy Joe, etc).
I did like the parts involving the wise boatbuilder crafting his cedar shells in the second floor of the Shell House, George Yeoman Pocock. Each chapter began with a quote by him. His words are philosophical, wise, and sometimes spiritual.
I liked the glimpses of what Coach Alvin Ulbrickson was thinking. The "Dour Dane" was quiet and noncommittal most of the time, but he played a central role in the book, nonetheless.
But there was nothing...NOTHING...about what Harry was thinking. What was Joe's father feeling and thinking all those years, up through the big win? How could he do that to Joe?
Loved Joe. He has a hugely forgiving heart and a tenacious spirit. No self-pity. Loved his girlfriend, Joyce. Happy for them.
This is a heartwarming story, despite the painful parts.
I am an author and a librarian, and I happily now live in the realm of audio books.
This unimaginable story is an inspirational ride from start to finish. The narration enhances an exciting story that showcases what is truly important in life. This is now my all-time favourite book both for its literary merit-- the way it is written and how it weaves together the story of the 1936 rowing team from the University of Washington together with the backdrop of Hitler's Germany-- and the deeper understanding it provides for readers to put the events of their lives into perspective. It is hard to imagine a book ever replacing this one in my life.
It's a great feel-good story, not only about these boys, but about the hard work, dedication, complete giving of self and extraordinary leadership that it took in order to accomplish everything they worked for.
The story centers around Joe Rantz, who we root for against all adversity. I presume there is about as interesting story surrounding Bobby Moch, the runt of a kid who led the boys in their most important races.
I would rather not give it away completely, but let's just say the book has a number of very intense scenes surrounding the crew races.
No. I like to listen to these during long business trips and break it up over my road trips.
This book is perfect for entrepreneurs, business leaders, team leaders, or anybody looking for a bit of inspiration to drive themselves to higher goals.
Edward Herrmann has a cadence as a narrator, which he uses to keep this story moving. His timing is seemingly effortless. Without such a combination I might have put the book aside.
Stories about war, strife, and challenge can be depressing. NOT this story. D.J. Brown found his way through the telling by perfectly balancing the joy and rewards of youthful hope, with the hard facts of life.
He was able to include "the good ole days" of simple living without distracting from the truth that they weren't that good.
Extractiing enough detail from someone's private life, just enough, to build a character that one can love and relate to, takes not only an analytical mind, but also, an open heart. What is a story with out that?
Out of nowhere
the book was very well written. Edward handled the high level prose very well
It's about the boat.
what a difference between how these boys pulled themselves up from the poorest of circumstances and what people expect to be given to them today. They were truly "The greatest generation".
An amazing story about perseverance and working together as a team.
I could have listed to it in one sitting but did not.
I listened rapt to the story and do not own the printed version. The writing is first class and the historical detail fascinating.
The story focusses on Joe's experience as he battles to raise enough money to pay for his college career at Washington University and for ultimate fitness and skill in the racing eight.
My response to the book was one of admiration for all those who took their rowing to the pinnacle of success - their guts and determination at a time in American history when life was difficult and unrewarding.
Very, very enjoyable - highly recommended.
An uplifting true story of a group of young men who won gold against all odds. These humble, honest, and incredibly hard working guys inspired me to reach higher in my own life. One of the best books I've ever read.
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