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
Absolutely! This is not a read-to-find-out-what-happens book -- it's charm is in the telling. The people are fascinating, better than fictional characters, the technical detail is interesting, and the narrator is perfect.
George Pocock, the shell builder. Pocock was an enigmatic artist, the character in the book I would most like to have known.
Herman's voice is smooth and even. His timing is spot-on, and his intonation is just lively enough to avoid monotony, without overpowering the content.
Yes, though it's a little too long for that.
It's fairly astonishing that no one has stumbled onto this story before: it is narrative gold. Brown is not the most elegant writer, but he is a diligent researcher, and skillfully moves between the personal and particular, and the grander themes of the Depression and WWII. And, of course, the story is inherently thrilling, full of vivid characters and the vast machinery of history. Yes, we know how the story ends -- but the reader is nonetheless on the edge of his seat throughout.
One cavil with the otherwise excellent narration: many of the place names in the Northwest are hideously mispronounced. I will grant that "Puyallup" is a challenge (it's "pew-AL-up", not "pile-up") but Alki??? It's "ALK-EYE" not "al-kee", as if an entire neighborhood were deemed a drunk.
This is a well-written, highly entertaining and motivating story within a larger story of WWII. Good drama, good character development.
Please, please - if you are going to read about real geographic locations, correctly pronounce the names. Juan de Fuca, Skagit, Alki on and on - ALL BUNGLED. It's really detracting.
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.
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.
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%
Wonderful story, but the narrator made many egregious (too numerous and irritating to be laughable) mispronunciations of Pacific Northwest place names. If you're from Washington state you'll be happier reading it than listening to it. Penguin Books: don't you have editors?
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.
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