Dana Stabenow's Reviews > The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
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it was amazing
bookshelves: hpl-s-read-15-in-15

One of the best books I've read this year.

I could care less about sport and less than that about crewing, but this book isn't only or even mostly about the sport, it's about the boys in the boat, and about where they come from. It is also about the physical, mental, emotional and above all spiritual cost of the Depression, and about Hitler putting the Olympics to work for him via Leni Riefenstahl, and about the class war between USA East and USA West and between the haves and have-nots (shades of the one percent, plus ca change), and about working hard for something you want and then working harder still and harder than that to get it.

But mostly, it's about the boys in the boat, especially Joe Rantz, who is abandoned by his father not once but twice and has to figure out how to feed himself during the absolute financial nadir of this nation, and how to endure the slights and sneers of his classmates when he manages to get into UW and they make fun of him for his appearance and his appetite. He was hungry, for crissake. That scene just broke my heart.

It's no spoiler to say they go on to triumph (it says so on the cover), but that doesn't make this book any less of an edge of the seat account of how they do so. Their "swing" is always falling apart, and you'll feel every one of the two thousand meters during the final sprint for the gold medal. Everything is against them, the illness of their stroke oar, Don Hume, the official who dropped the start flag where the Americans and the British couldn't see it, the assignment of them both to the worst lanes, even the wind was against them. The guts and the sheer, bloody-minded stubbornness of those boys in pulling to an impossible gold medal inspires awe and not a little bit of shame. When was the last time I worked that hard for anything? Or ever?

The epilogue made me tear up, but it shouldn't have, because these boys went on to live lives that are the very definition of well-lived (most of them wound up working at Boeing, and I bet I've ridden on many of the aircraft they helped design and build), and they all stayed close friends until their deaths. Those boys in that boat? Are the collective definition of the American dream.
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Reading Progress

October 1, 2015 – Started Reading
October 1, 2015 – Shelved
October 6, 2015 – Shelved as: hpl-s-read-15-in-15
October 6, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Penny (new) - added it

Penny Ramirez This is exactly the kind of review that makes me pick up a book I never would have given a second look. Thanks for sharing!


message 2: by Cathy (new)

Cathy Thank you! Am headed to the library today, will look it up.


message 3: by Joy (new)

Joy Since your review made me tear up, there's no doubt the book would.


Lewis Weinstein Great review of a great book ... LEW


George Great review! Spot on.


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