Many great accounts filtered down to me regarding Daniel James Brown's account of Boys in the Boat. When a book is recommended that highly, it rarely disappoints. That goes double for this amazing re-telling of the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the lads from Washington.
One of the members of the Best Food Ever Book Cub, posed this interesting question: “What made the boat speed through the water faster than any other boat? Coaching? Pocock's design and cedar cut from the B.C. coast? Determination, competitiveness, and will? The Fates?” These are all great questions, and I know the discussion will be very lively as we look for answers.
It is my personal belief that champions are born, and champions are also made. What kept me turning the pages of this book that topped the New York Times bestseller list, is the recreation of a time and a place. A quest plot drives the action as we are literally pulling for every member of the crew. From hard working circumstances and the depths of the depression, these young men prepare to make themselves champions. The coaching is superb. There are words of inspiration for us to read and tuck away in our minds, on our blackboards, and in our diaries.
“One of the first admonitions of a good rowing coach, after the fundamentals are over, is “pull your own weight,” and the young oarsmen does just that when he finds out that the boat goes better when he does. There is certainly a social implication here.” George Yeoman Pocock P. 149
Reading of all the various obstacles overcome by the crew members, the grueling conditions in which they trained, the brute strength they were able to call upon when needed, makes this book an inspiring read. How I wished I had a rowing machine in my basement, or that I could get out on those glassy early mornings in my kayak or my canoe once again. I longed to feel my back muscles stinging, and I wanted to watch whirlpools in the water. I longed to glide along driven by my own steam. There is something so satisfying and immediate about the whole mode of travel that I wanted to feel all that beauty again.
Certainly the boys from Washington had an inner toughness that we long to see again. I can remember that in my youth the hockey players who worked in gravel pits and on farms in Ontario, gaining strength while putting food on the table for their families. Can true grit be found in a gym? I am sure it can, but I have always wondered if overcoming adversity as a child adds to what goes into the making of a champion.
“Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They're the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them, civilization is out of whack. And that's why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it. That's what he gets from rowing.” George Yeoman Pocock P.357
If you have a reader on your Christmas list, or like me, you give books to everyone, Boys in the Boat will be a highly valued addition to any library.