History. Sports & Recreations. Nonfiction. HTML:The #1 New York Timesâ??bestselling story about American Olympic triumph in Nazi Germany and now the inspiration for the PBS documentary "The Boys of '36"For readers of Unbroken, out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of timesâ??the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant. It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington's eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys' own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man's personal quest. From the Trade Paperback edition
An amazing balance of human interest, history and sport. Joe Rantz's story had my mothers heart wanting to give his ten year old self a big hug. His story and the man he became is simply heart breaking and admirable. He and the other boys wormed their way under my skin and I found myself holding my breath more than once during their races.
The book went back and forth between the US and Germany. The snow job they pulled on the world during the Olympics, convincing many others that they were a progressive and fair nation. There were small moments of humor too, as when the German people greeted our athletes with a raised arm and shouted, Heil, Hitler, our athletes raised their arms and answered back, "Heil, Roosevelt.
The sport of course took up much of the book from the scull maker, Popcock to the coach, Al Ubrickson. The hard work that went into training, and of course the races, competitions between the East and West coast. The lives of the men in the boat and what happened to them after.
All in all I found this a stirring read, a wonderful book.
That was my reaction before reading the book, but holy hell, what a story. It's about the legendary 1936 Olympic rowing team from the University of Washington, comprised mainly of "uncouth" working class boys
Of course, the 1936 Olympics were held in Berlin. While we're learning about the crew members, their coaches, and possibly the best boat maker in the world, we also learn about how the Nazis viewed the event as perfect propaganda for their Aryan paradise. They cleansed the city of the most obvious anti-semitism and hired infamous Leni Riefenstahl to film the monstrous film Olympia. Oh, and they clearly tried to rig the rowing competition by changing the rules and giving the Americans the worst lane.
A couple quibbles. I don't like hagiography, and would have preferred a more warts-and-all portrayal of the athletes. I would have liked a more thorough discussion of decision to participate in the 1946 Nazi-fest at all. And I would have liked a more complete picture of Joe Rantz's stepmother Thula, who in this book is a stepmother straight out of fairy tales and is just too despicable to be believed.
Throughout this book, juxtaposed against Joe's and the boys' story is Hitler's creation of the fictional Germany that he wanted to present to the world during the Olympics there. As he hides the real Germany, the US ignores him, and the boys and other athletes just work on getting there.
When the story was over, I didn't want it to be over. So I read the endnotes. You'll probably do that, too.
"...Bolles sometimes spoke of life-transforming experiences. He held out the prospect of becoming part of something larger than themselves, of finding in themselves something they did not yet know they possessed, of growing from boyhood to manhood. At times he dropped his voice a bit and shifted his tone and cadence and talked of near mystical moments on the water â€“ moments of pride, elation and deep affection for oneâ€™s fellow oarsmen, moments they would remember, cherish and recount to their grandchildren when they were old men. Moments, even, that would bring them nearer to God.
We all hope for -- and if lucky enough, recall for a lifetime -- these moments of transcendence.
Joe Rantz grew up extremely poor during the depression. His mother died when he was young and when his father remarried, Joe's stepmother, Thula, was very unhappy, so she, Joe's father, and their kids left Joe behind to fend for himself on a couple of occasions. Thula never wanted to take
I'm not â€śintoâ€ť rowing, but this was really good. Some of the technical aspects that described the rowing, I skimmed over, but everything else was really interesting and quite riveting. Not only did we learn about rowing, Joe's life, and life during the Depression, there was also discussion of Hitler and the Nazis in Germany leading up to the Olympics that were held in Belin. All very interesting and I was reading â€śon the edge of my seatâ€ť during some of the races!
It helps that this is one of those too-good-to-be-true stories, full of many classic elements: underdogs beating the odds, people learning to love and trust each other before they can succeed, working class boys out-doing East Coast old money at their own game, not to mention Good Old American hard work and perseverance defeating the Evil Nazis in their own back yard, all against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the tension of the build-up to World War Two.
The local color really helped, too - I am familiar with most of the places in Washington where the action takes place, so that probably helped me enjoy the book more than I would have otherwise.
This book should be read by a wide audience, young adult and adult alike. I believe even middle graders would benefit from it, if led by a dedicated teacher, interested in imparting a moral lesson to the class. This book is a lesson on the benefits of perseverance, the ability to accomplish results believed out of reach, the ability to push oneself beyond what was believed to be human endurance; it is awe-inspiring.
â€śThe Boys in the Boatâ€ť encompasses the traumatic events that occurred in the 20th century, from WWI, to The Great Depression, and then, briefly, follows up on the lives of the â€śboysâ€ť who served their country and grew into men. It describes the dust bowls, FDRâ€™s WPA and the building of the Grand Coulee Dam, Hitlerâ€™s advance on Europe and the tragedy of the Holocaust, but mostly, it is about events leading to the enormous Olympic victory achieved by the University of Washingtonâ€™s, American rowing team, in 1936. Germany staged the event, magnificently, to convince the world that The Fatherland was on its way to being Utopia, rather than a country creating a nightmare for the rest of the unsuspecting, perhaps blind by choice, world that did not want to become involved with the problems of others, a world view that seems all too familiar today.
The reader will devour the information presented on the history of rowing and its famed shell builder, George Yeoman Pocock, on the coaches who battled each other for the winning titles, who strove for an Olympic presence, and on the eventual success of the tenacious team from Seattle. They will wax nostalgic and marvel at the mention of such famous heroes and accomplishments like those of Joe Lewis, Jesse Owens, the horses, War Admiral and Sea Biscuit, and the Titanic and the S.S. Manhattan. Sadness will engulf the reader when they revisit the madness of Hitler and his concentration camps, Kristallnacht and WWII.
Mostly, though, this is the story of courage and inner strength, both found in Joe Rantz, a young boy, tossed out into the world at age 10 by poverty and cruelty. He was unprepared, but also unwilling to give up, unwilling to fail at life. No matter how many times he was knocked down, he somehow pulled himself up to face another day, and it is through his life that we learn of the boys who sat in the boat built by George Pocock that would lead them all to victory and a permanent place in historyâ€™s hall of fame.
This book tells the story of a group of young men, called boys throughout the book, which gave them an identity that seemed vulnerable and yet brave throughout. Each one, in his own way, was a hero and role model that would be wise to imitate today. They were boys with all the foibles boys possess, with all the mischief and crudeness, but they were boys that were determined to succeed, against all odds, against their ancestry, against the class barriers that tried to prevent them from achieving their goals. They had character. You will feel their struggles, their pain, their joy, their anger and their compassion. You may not understand the behavior of some of the characters, but you will eventually understand Joeâ€™s ability to turn every negative into a positive, to forgive all and master every obstacle in his way, without becoming obsessed with the idea of revenge, only with the idea of succeeding.
The descriptions of the races will make the readers hold their breath in anticipation of the results. The details will put the readers there, in that same spotlight that the boys bask within when they win or lose because the prose is flawless and the audio reader's tone is impeccable.
Although some of the subject matter was painful to revisit, the beauty of the narrative countered any discomfort and made it a phenomenal experience, even worthier of reading. The authorâ€™s knack for painting accurate pictures of the scenes described was captivating. This author has done a formidable job of presenting a non-fiction book that reads like a novel. It is exciting, touching, tender, romantic, heartwarming, inspiring, and, in short, it is brilliant.
The boys beat Hitler at his own game, even though he tried to rig the rules, changing them so that Germany might win the competition and the medal. The reader will be at the Olympics every step of the way and will feel the tension of the moment which will be almost unendurable. Having hindsight, knowing what will come in the following decade, will make the reader even more aware of the importance of their win. This book imparted that feeling and every bit of the history with accuracy, and without overdoing the emotion.
The anecdotal stories related in â€śThe Boys in the Boatâ€ť, enhanced the readerâ€™s understanding of the times and the pressures these boys faced, the understanding of their effort to succeed in the face of daunting obstacles. If I could, I would give this book 10 stars. It is so head and shoulders above much of the drivel that is being turned out today. In spite of a childhood rife with neglect, in spite of formidable impediments before them, Joe and these boys always rebounded, always showed courage in the face of whatever hurdle had to be overcome and had the amazing courage of their convictions to keep on going toward success.
The story is well researched and the reader learns about the
Joe meets Joyce Sanders, and realizes that he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Joe's mother died at a young age and his father remarried. Joe's step-mother never gave Joe any love. This was saved for the children she had with Joe's father. Joe even faced abandonment by his father and step-mother.
Joe's hard work is recognized and he's invited to enroll at the University of Washington and tryout for the crew team. There were no athletic scholarships at the time but making the team would mean that part time jobs would be available to help pay for a student's expenses.
As Joe and his fellow freshmen are molded into a championship team, across the country depression continues. Jobs were hard to come by and the dust bowl was a term for the terrible wind storms that blew topsoil away and caused many farmers to go bankrupt.
In Germany, Hitler is rising to power and Dr. Joesph Gobbles was made the German minister of propaganda. Both men hated Jews and the persecution of the Jews became intense.
This is a story of sports, determination and a hope of something many shared during the dark days of the depression.
The men travel to Germany and begin seeing the anti-Jewish tone of the country and renew their determination to represent the United States and row them to a championship against the Germans.
I enjoyed the story and sharing the teams moments in history. There are parts of the book that will remain with me for a long time.â€ť
The frilly style soon settles into a companionable rhythm and the reader discovers Joe's world and slowly comes
I put down the book with a sense of having known the oarsmen and admired their determination, perseverance and talent. A engrossing and inspiring read!
The book is about the rowing team from the University of Washington who fought their way to the Berlin
The only thing negative I found about this book was that it was a little hard to get into. In fact, I read the first two or three pages about three separate evenings before finally making it through the first chapter. So, it was a bit of a slow read for me â€“ maybe just because of how it was written â€“ more like a documentary than a gripping story. However, I did enjoy the book despite the fact that I have never rowed in a boat or even really paid much attention to regattas or boat racing. I found the details quite interesting, and when the races were being described, I felt as if I were on the edge of my seat watching them for the first time. I thought the story was well done, and I enjoyed learning about this event in history. 5 of 5 stars.