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Book Review: Boys in the Boat

Book review - boys in the boat - photos of book club eating and at the theater

Our book club celebrated one year of reading together this month! In December, one of our members suggested that we read Boys in the Boat and watch the movie as part of our book club gathering for January. We haven't done a book to movie yet, and we all loved the idea.  Due to the 2024 snowpocalypse, we had to push back our book club meeting by a week, but we finally made it happen this past weekend.

My review: 🌟🌟🌟

Pros: Very clean

Cons: Not fiction; includes disturbing details of Nazi Germany in the mid-1930s (I don't mind reading about these things, it is history after all, but if you are bothered by that re-telling be aware.)

My thoughts:

The movie leaves out a lot, as all movie adaptations of a book do. The book had a lot that could be left out. Much of the first 150 pages is unnecessary background. If you can sludge through those first 150 pages, the rest of the book gets better.

Boys in the Boat primarily follows Joe Rantz who rowed with the University of Washington's 8-man crew team in the mid-1930s. He was part of the crew who won gold during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Joe's childhood involved a lot of trauma and abandonment. The writer covers that in detail. Joe had dreams for his future, but no money. Rowing for the University of Washington included a job at the YMCA and a room.

It's a classic story of the underdogs overcoming all odds to win. The writer does a great job of investing us in the lives of Joe and his teammates along with the coaches and boat builder. The movie glosses over a lot of the backstory. The movie also never shows the boys rowing in anything other than sunshine. According to the book, they often rowed in freezing weather.

The writer also does a great job of lining up events in Joe's life with events taking place in Germany. Hitler initially rejected the idea of hosting the Olympics but later decided it was a great opportunity to show the world how great Germany had become. They hid their persecution of Jews and others and put a shine on their image. The whole world bought it. Another masterful move by a deranged and dangerous dictator.

I gave the book less than five stars because the beginning moves so slowly. If you enjoy history and sports, you'll love this book. If you like an inspirational story of an underdog winning, watch the movie.


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