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Many reviews offer comparisons of this book to Seabiscuit, appropriately so as the themes and narrative tone are remarkably similar. But I also see a strong resemblance to another American Olympic story that happened 4 decades later – our “Miracle on Ice” hockey team of 1980. In both cases global hostilities threatened Olympic boycotts, potentially crushing the once-in-a-lifetime dreams of humble college kids taking on the State subsidized titans of their sports. But the games were held, and against all odds (some of them suspicious in their advantages to the two Fascist teams) the kids rose to the occasion. This is not a spoiler – it’s well known that they win. The real drama is in the story that got them there in the first place. Brown writes that story effectively, developing the social, economic and political context, and fleshing out the characters: Coach Ulbrickson who struggled to find the right team chemistry among his talented rowers, employing crushingly superhuman training standards to ensure top conditioning. There is also shell builder George Pocock, who dispensed Yoda-like wisdom to the boys about the intangible qualities that make up a crew as opposed to a team. And of course the boys in the boat, whose own stories are compelling, especially Joe's, but several others are well highlighted.
Edward Herrmann’s flawless reading is smooth, clear and authoritative, yet also intimate in the telling of the very personal stories of Depression era America and early Third Reich Germany, as teams of rowers approached the race of a lifetime, that to the world was more than just a boat race. And just a side note - you can find video of the race on Youtube.
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‘The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympic’ is a tireless story of triumph that endures beyond cliché and predictability. Reflective of a time where a generation of Americans was tested through the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, this true story of Joe Rantz and his eight University of Washington boat crew teammates follows their journey from humble origins detailing their sense of national pride and self determination to take on elite boat crews around the globe. The novel culminates into a true David and Goliath showdown between the Americans and the German national team at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
The drama within the novel lies more with the interpersonal stories than just the action on the water, but you will not be disappointed by author Daniel Brown’s balance and character development. This is a story that could easily be fraught with predictability, but it never happens. The novel has so much depth and narration so flowing, you will still be glued to the headphones with anticipation of finding out how the details of the story unfold.
Given Edward Herrmann’s remarkable storytelling of ‘Unbroken’ and ‘The Johnstown Flood’, he is undoubtedly the best, natural choice for narrator. Herrmann brings Dan Brown’s words to life with a balance of smooth calmness, wit, and explosive theatrics in storytelling that few narrators have mastered.
If you enjoy literary non-fiction audiobooks like ‘Unbroken’ by Laura Hillenbrand or ‘The Worst Hard Time’ by Timothy Egan, I promise that you will not be disappointed listening to ‘Boys in The Boat’.
52 of 59 people found this review helpful