Book review: The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

Caution: N-N-N-N-Nazis ahead (May 28, 2019)

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

This could have been a great account of the trials and tribulations of many of the persons involved with the winning 8-man rowing team at the 1936 Olympics. The author does a good job of bringing the characters to life, and tries to put events in context.

There are two problems, though.

First, Brown’s descriptions of the members of the team make them sound to be Paul Bunyan writ small, so impossibly fit that it leaves you wondering why the other teams even showed up for the competitions, let alone how they sometimes prevailed.

Second, the author includes such a heavy-handed, lopsided, and gratuitously slanted view of pre-war Germany that you have to wonder what other liberties he took in the narrative of the main story. Not only that, but the over-the-top rendering of N-N-N-N-Nazis is so pervasive in the later portion of the book that you begin to wonder if he just grabbed a bunch of off-the-shelf war propaganda as filler to get the page count he promised the publisher. It’s a shame, too, because the main story is more than strong enough to stand on its own.

However, if you like your history a bit one-sided and leavened with cartoon Nazis, you may like this book.