I enjoyed listening to this audio book on two levels: the inspiring story of the boys on the 1936 Olympic rowing team and reminiscing about my days of rowing crew in high school. I was blown away by the amount of research Brown must have done to write this book. The details on the boys lives and the surrounding events added greatly to the story. Although I don’t usually appreciate a lot of back story or tangents, because this book was nonfiction, I didn’t mind it.
At the beginning, the story alternated between Joe Rantz and the other boys trying out for the team and learning to row and the history of Joe’s early life, which was pretty awful. The book gave me a good view of life during The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl. My knowledge of that era boiled down to It’s a Wonderful Life and The Grapes of Wrath up until that point.
As additional characters are introduced throughout the book, their history is shared, as well as a brief history of U.S. collegiate rowing. As a former oars-woman, I really loved the descriptions of rowing – the technique, the role of the different seats, and the grueling nature of the sport. I also loved the quotes from George Yoeman Pocock, a boat maker closely involved in the University of Washington crew team.
Brown rounds out the story with a glimpse into pre-WWII Germany as Hitler and his Ministry of Propaganda prepared to host the 1936 Olympics.
Even though I knew that the University of Washington team was going to win the Olympics in 1936, Brown was able to build suspense for each of the races throughout their college career. Right up until the end, I was on the edge of my seat with every race. I knew they’d win, but I didn’t know how they’d win or whether they’d lose certain races along the way. And the final race brought tears to my eyes. The writing was just fantastic! I think any sports-lover could really get into this story.
Rating: 4 Stars
This review was originally published on Mom’s Radius.