Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Daniel James Brown, THE BOYS IN THE BOAT

Extremely well-written, engaging, page-turner about the eight boys from Washington who won gold in the 1936 Olympics. While it tells the story of all eight boys, it is focalized largely through the personal memories of the #2 man in the boat, Joe Rantz; it begins with his horrifying childhood (his stepmother was like something out of Disney), creating a psychological trajectory of him transcending not just his material poverty but his lack of trust in others, to become part of this team. The author is also very congnizant of the historical context--the myths that the Eastern US was writing about the Western US, for example, and how that created a sort of "meta" story (intertwined with the Seabiscuit story, for example, rough-hewn but real power coming out of the west), about the boys of Washington and Cal (UC Berkeley) versus the "privileged" Yale, Cornell, Harvard crews. The boat story is also cross-cut with the rise of Hitler and how the Olympics were used as a propoganda opportunity, with Leni Riefenstahl and Goebbels duking it out for power. Fascinating. Couldn't put this one down. If you liked THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY (Erik Larson), you may like this one too.

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