Wednesday, March 04, 2015

First Wednesday's Book Review Club: THE BOYS IN THE BOAT



I am not sure of the psychology behind this, but every month I find myself resisting reading the book chosen by the dozen women in my book club. Even if it's a book I chose myself! This was one I had not heard of until I was told this would be the March choice. 
And it seemed like a book that would not be very discussable. Lots of times, the books I like the most turn out to lead to poor discussions.
I am not sure about the discussability of THE BOYS IN THE BOAT: NINE AMERICANS AND THEIR EPIC QUEST FOR GOLD AT THE 1936 BERLIN OLYMPICS, but I sure enjoyed reading it. A book about rowing? Seems improbable that anyone could make it a page turner but David James Brown succeeded.
The reason he was able to do this was because he was able to pull in so much beside the University of Washington's rowing program in the thirties. The book looks at the problems of poverty in the 1930s, the dust bowl, Nazi German's rise to power, the Olympic movement, the story of rowing itself, the lives of the coach, the boat builder and some of the athletes. Most especially it gave us the life of Joe Rantz, a rower who had an exceptionally hard childhood. His summer job while in college was hanging from cliffs and using a 75 pound drill to build a damn. Most of the boys came from humble means, which means we cheer for them all the more. Brown was especially adept at exploring the psychology of successful rowing. A very particular sort of sport.
I enjoyed this book immensely and am anxious to hear what my book group members think of it.

For more book reviews, go see Barrie Summy.


16 comments:

Scott Parker said...

This is the kind of history book I really enjoy: taking a smaller something and using it as a microcosm for something greater. Sounds like a great story for a TV movie.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, it will be a movie. No doubt about that, Scott. A perfect story.

George said...

Diane's Book Club is reading THE BOSTON GIRL.

pattinase (abbott) said...

We are prone to books that purport to educate.

Al Tucher said...

Interesting. It sounds similar to SEABISCUIT.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think there is almost a formula now on how to do these books well.
Rowing by itself would not have done it. Although he describes it well, it does not a book make. I also think of the strands Larsen pulled into DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY.

Deb said...

I can totally relate to the psychology of not wanting to read a book you "have to" read. I hate to feel compelled to read something--even though I read all the time! I've avoided joining book clubs for this very reason.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I agree, Deb. Sometimes I feel like Groucho Marx. I would never want to join a (book) club that would have me as a member. But then, most "book club books" like the ones Patti and Diane have to read (that "have to" is what gets me) don't really interest me. I still prefer genre reading for the most part to the Isabel Allende-type thing that is chosen so often.

And stay off my lawn!

Jeff M.

Stacy said...

I sometimes struggle to read my book club's choices too. Last month's choice of The Talented Mr. Ripley? I never managed to get a copy in time to read it. Oops.

This sounds like a book I wouldn't likely pick up in a bookstore but would enjoy if someone prompted me to read it.

I just noticed you are a Metro Detroit blogger too.

Rose said...

This sounds like the kind of book I would never pick up off the shelf, but you certainly make it sound appealing. I've read several books in recent months chosen by my book club, too, that I never would have read otherwise. I like to think of it as enriching my reading:)

Thanks for your comment on my post; I'm curious what your husband found disappointing about the ending. Without giving the ending away, I will say that I and all my book club were disappointed in the meeting between Marie and Jutta--I wonder if that is what he is referring to. And then there's Werner....but I won't say anymore.

Sarah Laurence said...

I bought this book for my British husband who coxed crew at Oxford and then coached intramural crew at Harvard. He quit reading due to the flowery writing and the patriotic zeal. His claim was that the Americans were not the underdogs, although they were portrayed that way in the book.

Cloudbuster said...

Great review. This seems to be a month filled with lots of WWII-related books. This one sounds particularly interesting. Thanks for sharing!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Rose-He didn't like the ending where he flashed forward and told what happened to the characters in the future. He is a solid believer in the show don't tell school.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

This sounds like one I'd love! A little while ago I read Bomb! about the convoluted and complex history of the atom bomb. Fascinating stuff!

I also love rowing. And the Olympics. Writing this one down! :)

troutbirder said...

Narrow topic. Broad historical connections. Competition. My kind of book! Thanks......:)

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

You sound like my kind of person! I'm always a little out of step with the crowd.
It's a skill to make that kind of thing a treat to read.
cheers