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The Portsmouth Book Club July - The Boys in the Boat

Our July pick is The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.  Here is a synopsis from GoodReads:

For readers of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit and Unbroken, the dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics

Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled  by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam's The Amateurs.

And a starred review from Booklist:

*Starred Review* If Jesse Owens is rightfully the most famous American athlete of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, repudiating Adolf Hitler’s notion of white supremacy by winning gold in four events, the gold-medal-winning effort by the eight-man rowing team from the University of Washington remains a remarkable story. It encompasses the convergence of transcendent British boatmaker George Pocock; the quiet yet deadly effective UW men’s varsity coach, Al Ulbrickson; and an unlikely gaggle of young rowers who would shine as freshmen, then grow up together, a rough-and-tumble bunch, writes Brown, not very worldly, but earnest and used to hard work. Brown (Under a Flaming Sky, 2006) takes enough time to profile the principals in this story while using the 1936 games and Hitler’s heavy financial and political investment in them to pull the narrative along. In doing so, he offers a vivid picture of the socioeconomic landscape of 1930s America (brutal), the relentlessly demanding effort required of an Olympic-level rower, the exquisite brainpower and materials that go into making a first-rate boat, and the wiles of a coach who somehow found a way to, first, beat archrival University of California, then conquer a national field of qualifiers, and finally, defeat the best rowing teams in the world. A book that informs as it inspires.

The other nominees this month were:

Dog Gone It (A Chet and Bernie Mystery) by Spencer Quinn

Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer: A Novel (P.S.) by Sena Jeter Naslund

Sutton by J.R. Moehringer

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas

We had a fun a vibrant meeting as always for our latest book.  You can read my formal review here:  The Invention of Wings Book Review.  Thank you to everyone who attended our six year anniversary of the Portsmouth Book Club!

 

Join or login to comment.

  • Darien L.

    Rebecca, you did great with the difficulties with the room. The Dolphin Striker has so much going for it as a meeting place. Wait staff and food couldn't be better. Acoustics are a real difficulty that seems impossible to solve with our size group. Is it possible that we can move back to the Rusty Hammer with they reopen?

    1 · July 9, 2014

    • Rebecca

      And thanks for your kind words!

      July 9, 2014

    • Ben S.

      It bears mentioning that a group the size we had on Tuesday (35+) is going to be somewhat unwieldy no matter what.

      1 · July 10, 2014

  • Rebecca

    Rockin'!

    July 8, 2014

  • Bob L.

    Venus, I sent you an email, but posting a notice here just in case. You were RSVP's twice, so I removed one and have updated Peg from Waiting to Joining.

    1 · July 8, 2014

  • Rebecca

    No, this is the book we will be discussing this evening. Tonight we will pick the book for August and post it on this site. You should receive an email with a link to the next meetup and book selection.

    1 · July 8, 2014

  • Ashley Marie B.

    Hi, my husband and I are planning on starting attendance in August. Is this the book to read for July for the August meeting?

    July 7, 2014

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