Read this as part of the 'One Maryland, One Book' program sponsored by MD libraries. Wasn't sure when I started it whether I would like it. But it picked up and I totally enjoyed it. Details the crew of the 1936 Olympic 8-man rowing crew from Washington (State) University. Absolutely amazing the struggles each went through during the Depression. Covers a lot of info re: rowing, etc. Spotlight on one of the crew members, Joe Rantz, and his life. Being abandoned by his family and left to fend for himself, how he put himself through college, the struggles with self-image, and their amazing win at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler's Berlin. Some background into the Nazi state in Germany at the time ties in beautifully, but not the major focus. Great read!
Books like this are the reason I'm so thankful for book groups! I never would have picked up a nonfiction sports story for myself, but it was the book of the month for our group and I loved it! It's as much about the character of those in the American west as it is about crew, and the history of Nazi propaganda related to the Olympics is disturbing and fascinating.
If someone told me that I would rave about a non-fiction book on the topic of rowing, I would have totally dismissed their comment. At least that is the case before I read "The Boys in the Boat". Daniel Brown's book is a masterpiece of story telling that brings the history of the Great Depression and the life of an abandoned child, Joe Rantz, into exacting focus. By the book's end, it was as if Joe, his fellow oarsmen, his coach, and his boat-maker mentor were family. I felt, too, that I swallowed the topsoil that choked families during those dust bowl years and that I swung from ropes holding a jackhammer to build the Great Coulee Dam. It was fascinating, too, to gain insight into the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the role it played as a propaganda tool for Hitler. One of the great lessons of history is that we should carefully guard against authoritarians who foster a cult of personality. This was true then and now. I could not put this book down. It is one of those rare books that I know will always be a part of me.