The Boys in The Boat by Daniel Brown

This book seems to be pretty interesting so far. Although the beginning was kind of rough for me, I guess I caught up with the face moving pace of the novel pretty quickly. Also, I wanted to join the Lake Oswego Rowing Community in the beginning of the year, so I learned a lot about this vigorous sport through my reading. That said, Brown does a great job of portraying life during the Great Depression.

It was quite disheartening actually, to see time after time, the misery that the characters in the novel have to face, especially Joe. Everything from Joe losing his mother and getting abandoned, to Joyce losing her house and living under her oppressive parents, it is pretty clear that the main characters’ lives were miserable. For example, when Harry and Thula left Joe, “The lightbulbs hanging from the raters flickered on for a moment. Then they flickered off and stayed off” (Brown 58). Light symbolizes hope, so the fact that the lightbulb stayed off means that basically, there is no hope in living on. That dampens the mood quite a bit in the novel, although it was not the first time something bad happened to him. Additionally, the recurring image of a burned down house symbolizes the destruction of family and homes, which effectively illustrates how hard life was back then.

On a brighter note, there are many hints of hope in the novel though. On the epigraph of page 25, the narrator compares the giant trees of a forest to people and describes, “Looking at the annular rings of the wood, you can tell what seasons they have been through. In some drought years they almost perished, as growth is barely perceptible. In others, the growth was far greater”. Even though the trees experienced some harsh seasons, they managed to survive and still had hope in living. Furthering that, is the victorious race between Washington University and California. From the blue skies, to the sparkling water, to the subtitle of the novel, “Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics”, it was pretty clear that Washington was going to win. I honestly did not feel any suspension while reading the part about the race. However, that event did make the story so much happier. It just shows how courage in the face of adversary really pays off.

On a side note, did anyone find it hard to follow the book at the beginning? I thought it was extremely difficult to keep track of all the characters and their names when the author jumped from one to the next in the first thirty pages or so.

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15 responses to “The Boys in The Boat by Daniel Brown

  1. oliviasweng

    Sorry for the late reply!!

    I found that the book was a bit hard to get through in the beginning, (considering all the summaries of each person’s early life) so I get what you mean James. But once I was able to actually get into it, I didn’t look at the page numbers as much 🙂

    Just like James, Joe’s life was filled with depressing events, and I found several lines of foreshadowing. They showed a life of struggle ahead of him, not unlike the absence of hope [mentioned above]. Having lost his first wife, it would seem that Harry would deserve a happy second life. However, not long after having more children, “the age of the big dreamer was passing into history before Harry’s eyes” (Brown 30). This is first when the idea of a joyful life takes a dip. With the descriptions about him, Harry was clearly one who enjoyed tinkering and building. So if he could no longer pursue his dreams, naturally his happiness would fall. Other lines of foreshadowing also then begin to affect the entire household. After a fire (which could also foreshadow further hardship), it is clearly stated, “Home, it was beginning to seems, was something you couldn’t necessarily count on” (Brown 31). This family continues to face obstacles, and Joe continues to feel “the anxiety that since his mother’s death had seemed to be nibbling continuously at the corners of his mind” (Brown 32). Clearly, this family does not have a bright and happy future waiting for them, and the writer indicates that very soon, might this family fall apart. Unsurprisingly, it does.

    One thing I felt that was quite annoying was Thula and her relationship with Joe. I found to be selfish that she was constantly trying to kick him out of the house, what with making him live in the schoolhouse and just leaving him behind in Sequim. Yes, a stepson is not an ideal situation, but she was a mother herself. She should have been more understanding, especially considering that Joe was ten the first time. She was also always described as annoyed at Joe, which is show she is not a very understanding person, considering no one else seemed at all bothered by him.

    I also found a line describing Joe’s life in Sequim before he joined the rowing team, which I think was a fitting description for his character. It reads, “Joe thrilled at night when he heard the bears splashing as they fished in the pond or the cougars screeching as they met their mates in the dark” (Brown 55). It describes an adventurous and daring personality, one that Joe probably needed to be able to join the rowing team. Also, considering he is going to the Berlin Olympics during Hitler’s rule, he is somewhat going to face a bear of a sort, considering the power Hitler held.

    Where we left off, it was quite a happy scene, what with winning the race. Yet it was juxtaposed with Hilde’s birth, as only a few lines later, Brown explains how Hilde will die from cyanide. I researched Hilde and her siblings’ stories afterwards, and the children were murdered by their parents. Kind of a dark mood in contrast to the win of the freshman rowing team.

    One last thing – each chapter begins with a quote from George Pocock. Will he have a large role in this book?

    • emmymarkgraf

      Sorry this is so late!

      I definitely agree with James and Olivia that this book is interesting, and full of detail. I accidently finished the book… Oops, I’ll try not to give anything away. But, going off of James’ side note, I did find it hard to distinguish from the characters, Thelma, and Thula, and all the Harrys and Joes, but as the book progressed I found it easier to differentiate.

      One thing, like Olivia and James noted, was the harsh treatment of Joe by Thula. I found this to be obviously cruel but at the same time interesting, because you see Thula’s past affects her present. The way the book is written it bounces from character to character and time period to time period (which reminded me of All the Light We Cannot See). This style allows the reader to see just how the character’s upbringing affects their life. So I think that Thula couldn’t really help herself, as a child she was spoiled because, “Growing up, Thula had always been treasured by her family, not only for her beauty—which exceeded that of her twin Thelma, by a wide margin—and for her extraordinary talent with the violin but also for the refinement of her taste and sensitivity of her nature” (Brown 34). So in summary, Thula was very spoiled and grew up with this sense of entitlement and she expected her demands and wishes to met. Now she was forced to actually work *gasp* and take care of children, and her sense of injustice lashes out at Joe, a stepson who is a bit aloof. I thought that while the background of the characters was at times a bit monotonous, it helped to understand the character’s personality and the reason for their actions during the main plot line.

      Thus far, I thought that this book so far has done a wonderful job of describing just how hard rowing is. On page 89 Brown describes, “The movements of each rower are so intimately intertwined, so precisely synchronized with the movements of all the others, that any one rower’s mistake or subpar performance can throw off the tempo of the stroke, the balance of the boat, and ultimately the success of the whole crew.” More often than not books about sports are written about football,baseball, or basketball, sports that could be called “American” sports, or ones that embody “American ideals” (I disagree with that). However it’s not often that you would read or find a book about rowing, a sport that sometimes takes the backseat. And Brown had enormous job to not only tell this breathtaking story but also describe to the readers about what exactly rowing takes, both mentally and physically.

      Overall, even though I have finished the book, I loved the first section, and I am looking forward to reading your responses on the second section. Once again sorry this is so late. Hope you had a wonderful relaxing spring break!!

  2. emmymarkgraf

    Sorry this is so late!

    I definitely agree with James and Olivia that this book is interesting, and full of detail. I accidently finished the book… Oops, I’ll try not to give anything away. But, going off of James’ side note, I did find it hard to distinguish from the characters, Thelma, and Thula, and all the Harrys and Joes, but as the book progressed I found it easier to differentiate.

    One thing, like Olivia and James noted, was the harsh treatment of Joe by Thula. I found this to be obviously cruel but at the same time interesting, because you see Thula’s past affects her present. The way the book is written it bounces from character to character and time period to time period (which reminded me of All the Light We Cannot See). This style allows the reader to see just how the character’s upbringing affects their life. So I think that Thula couldn’t really help herself, as a child she was spoiled because, “Growing up, Thula had always been treasured by her family, not only for her beauty—which exceeded that of her twin Thelma, by a wide margin—and for her extraordinary talent with the violin but also for the refinement of her taste and sensitivity of her nature” (Brown 34). So in summary, Thula was very spoiled and grew up with this sense of entitlement and she expected her demands and wishes to met. Now she was forced to actually work *gasp* and take care of children, and her sense of injustice lashes out at Joe, a stepson who is a bit aloof. I thought that while the background of the characters was at times a bit monotonous, it helped to understand the character’s personality and the reason for their actions during the main plot line.

    Thus far, I thought that this book so far has done a wonderful job of describing just how hard rowing is. On page 89 Brown describes, “The movements of each rower are so intimately intertwined, so precisely synchronized with the movements of all the others, that any one rower’s mistake or subpar performance can throw off the tempo of the stroke, the balance of the boat, and ultimately the success of the whole crew.” More often than not books about sports are written about football,baseball, or basketball, sports that could be called “American” sports, or ones that embody “American ideals” (I disagree with that). However it’s not often that you would read or find a book about rowing, a sport that sometimes takes the backseat. And Brown had enormous job to not only tell this breathtaking story but also describe to the readers about what exactly rowing takes, both mentally and physically.

    Overall, even though I have finished the book, I loved the first section, and I am looking forward to reading your responses on the second section. Once again sorry this is so late. Hope you had a wonderful relaxing spring break!!

    • emmymarkgraf

      Page: 105-191
      Sorry about the double post last time. Technology did (and still does) hate me.

      Overall this section was very good, if not better than the first section. I noticed that on page 123, after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech the books says, “If there was little they could do individually to turn the situation around, perhaps there was something they could do collectively. Perhaps the seeds of redemption lay not just in perseverance, hard work, and rugged individualism. Perhaps they lay in something more fundamental—the simple notion of everyone pitching in and pulling together”. I thought this pointed out a common theme in the book. Throughout you see people helping each other in times of need; the Great Depression, during the rowing races, and when people, in general, need a helping hand. This saying really resonated with this book and especially with the sport of rowing. The author used the metaphor of Great Depression and how people reacted to it in comparison with the sport of rowing. Throughout the book thus far, the author has delved into how the crew, not only is a sport of an individual, but also of how these individuals fit into a cohesive team; and I thought this quote did a wonderful job of explaining it.

      I also noticed a major juxtaposition when Joe and Joyce visit Thula, and she, “raised her eyes abruptly and leveled them at Joe. ‘No,’ she said, her voice colder now. ‘Make your own life, Joe. Stay out of ours.’ And with that she closed the door gently and slid the deadbolt into position with a soft, metallic click” (Brown 133-134). I thought the cold and cruelness of Thula’s attitude juxtaposed the softness and kindness that Thula used when she closed the door. Upon first reading I expected Thula to slam the door in Joe’s face, and I was taken aback when she closed the door so carefully. To me it appeared that Thula cared more about the door, than her stepson! The juxtaposition showed how almost bipolar Thula was. I also think the gentleness when Thula closed the door had a profound impact on Joe because it unfortunately allowed the shock of being rejected for a second time to settle in. I, however still don’t understand Thula and her actions, and I never will.

      I hope everyone is liking the book thus far and I hope everyone had a great long weekend. And by everyone I mean the two other people reading this book, Olivia and James.

  3. jamesliu928

    Hi guys! I have to say, I didn’t write too much in this blog post because honestly, I couldn’t find many things to write about. And Emmy, I offer you my consolation for your problems with technology 🙂
    Addressing Emmy’s comment about Thula, I didn’t even realize that there seem to be some contradictions between her words and her actions. That said, I have to disagree with Emmy on the fact that Thula was valuing her door more than her stepson. First of all, I don’t think anyone would value their door more than a human being. Secondly, I just have this feeling that Thula didn’t totally abandon Joe and still have him somewhere in her heart. Her closing the door gently is evidence that maybe she doesn’t want to leave Joe forever. Lastly, her conversation with Joe was quite pleasant up until she locked him out, but as the book described, “she continues to look down at the porch, as if studying something at her feet, trying to find the answer to something there” (Brown 133). It seems to me that Thula was not happy with herself, maybe even a bit ashamed, because looking down is a symbol of sadness and grief. Even though her actions later might seem a bit harsh, I think Thula somewhat regrets her decision, but had to make it because of the financial situation their family was in.
    That aside, the only other significant thing I noticed in this section of the book, was Al’s ability of handling stress. Often times, we feel that the rowers, especially Joe considering his rough background, are really good at dealing with anxiety and nervousness, and we praise them for that. But we frequently forget about the coach, because almost all of a victory is attributed to the athletes. Al not only felt indebted to the people of Seattle who donated precious pennies and dollars to the rowing team, but also had the president’s son attending the race aside him. Think about how much damage a loss could do to his life and his reputation. He would be looked down upon by the entire population, and his job would be at risk. Despite that, Al maintained a positive attitude throughout the book and never let his emotions get to him or his boys. I think that is worth commending.

    • oliviasweng

      You probably can notice, but I’m posting quite a bit later than the two you. I want apologize 🙂 for the delay, but this is honestly a very difficult book for me to read. As I’ve said, the many, many different little biographies of each person makes it hard to read a lot in one sitting. However, I noticed that this last section was not as bad..

      Emmy commented on what is written on page 123, which says, “Perhaps the seeds of redemption lay not in just perseverance, hard work, and rugged individualism. Perhaps they lay in something more fundamental- the simple notion of everyone pitching in and pulling together” (123). I can see how this can connect with the Great Depression and everyone working together, and I found that it also connects to what society is always trying to tell us. There are lots of slogans, such as “there’s no I in teamwork”. During class, the teachers almost always put us in groups, to work together and use our strengths to make a good project. In all, this idea of team work has continued through the decades, which can probably be put in any situation nowadays.

      About Thula, I found myself irritated once again at how rude she could be towards Joe. Even after so many years, she refused to even let him in. I mean, what harm will happen in visiting your half siblings? She probably feels guilt, as James said, but I do not think that she regrets it. I agree with Joyce, who “demanded to know why Joe let his parents treat him as they did. Why did he go on pretending that they hadn’t done him any harm?” (134). Thula’s actions are pretty immature in a sense, and how much power she has shows that she is very controlling of Harry. For example, when Joe meets with his father, Joe asks if he can meet his old family. His father declines. As we see throughout the book, it is not Joe’s father who wants to cut contact- it’s Thula. So even after 5 and half years, Thula still has an iron grip on her husband, which is incredibly unfair to Joe, who has been abandoned because of this.

      On James’ comment about Al, I can see how he had kept his emotions in check. But I think it is mainly because he let out all his feelings in his logbook. On one of the days where the sophomores had rowed badly, Ulbrickson was writing in his logbook and “tore them apart: ‘horrible,’ ‘every man for his myself,’ ‘no semblance of teamwork,’ ‘have gone to sleep entirely'” (156). Clearly, he has some very strong feelings about the sophomore boat.

      The sophomore team seemed to have very erratic wins and losses, which was somewhat amusing to me. It was kind of funny, how the sophomore team would be demoted for their bad rowing, and then promptly beat the older boys. And when they were elevated, they lost again. This happened quite a few times, and “Ulbrickson was headed along the road from mild confusion to utter consternation, if not madness” (156). I found it particularly amusing when Ulbrickson had announced that the sophomore boat would be the sophomore crew. This was announced by the newspapers, and then the sophomore boat lost against the JV boat right after. I guess this gives motivation to not give up and have determination. 🙂

  4. jamesliu928

    Part 3 Pages 192-273
    Hi guys! Sorry for the late blog post, but I really couldn’t find much to write about. Anyway, I just wanted to say that this part of the book is a lot better than the previous ones. It is more suspenseful and doesn’t have as many mini-autobiographies. At least not as many as the first and second section.
    One thing that really shocked me was the anti-Semitism in America. While the issue of America attending the Germany-hosted Olympics was debated, the book reveals, “The fact was that Brundage’s views– like those of many Americans of his class– appear to have been tainted by his own anti-Semitic prejudices. He had written, in chilling terms in 1929, about the probable coming of a master race, ‘a race physically strong, mentally alert and morally sound; a race not to be imposed upon’ (Brown 225). Up until now, I thought that anti-Semitism was only present in Nazi Germany and was looked down upon in the rest of the world, especially in developed countries such as America, but I guess I was wrong.
    That was a bit of a side note, so now I will talk about Joe. First of all, the successes at all the races must have been so wonderful for Joe, because not only did Washington win in every single race, but Joe also felt a sense of belonging with his crew. It’s interesting to see how the sport of rowing transforms from technique and physical strength and endurance to mental and emotional stability as the story progresses. Furthermore, Joe has to step out of his comfort zone and trust his teammates while developing his own self-esteem. This only goes to show how psychologically demanding it is to get better at the sport of rowing.
    I think a lot of this self-assurance that Joe was able to obtain in this section of the novel was his family life. I don’t want to sound mean, but after Thula died, everything seems to get better for Joe. It might have been sad for Harry and the children, but Joe finally gets to spend some quality time with his dad and step-siblings. As Joe describes one of the scenes of the new home, he states, “Inside, the kids and Joyce and his father were all under one roof, sitting in front of the fire right now, waiting for him to come in out of the rain. And as he stood in the rain, Joe’s feelings began to shift– moving around like notes on a musical staff, bits and pieces of new themes starting to fall into place” (Brown 237). For the first time since Thula and Harry abandoned Joe, the concept of family was reintroduced into Joe’s life. Now with Joyce, everything gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling 🙂 What do you guys think?

    • emmymarkgraf

      This is a little bit late, but it seems to me that everybody has disregarded due dates, soo…. A comment on what James was talking about, I’m so happy that Joe finally has a true, loving family and I am looking forward to see how the concept of family being reintroduced to Joe affects his life. And in response to Olivia, I actually love the little biographies of everyone that comes into Joe’s life. I think without these mini biographies we wouldn’t have complete understanding of the characters and how they affected Joe. Afterall, I feel as if this book is mostly about how the other characters affect Joe.

      In this section, I thought Thula finally revealed her true colors in this section. After Thula got an audition with Fritz Kreisler she said, “Now, with that to build on for a future, and a steady income from Harry’s job, she was bent on getting out of the house and celebrating—living life, for a change, as it was meant to be lived.” (Brown 211). I thought this passage was quite… shocking. This entire passage gave off a bitter tone, as if she was regretful that she ever had kids, or married Harry. I thought this really revealed how much she truly hated her life. Before I thought that she just disliked Joe and wasn’t comfortable with her life, but now I’m seeing how much she just disliked everything, including her kids and husband.. Now that she’s dead, like James said, I’m genuinely happy for Joe (not to be mean). Although I still can’t believe he felt regret for Thula after she treated him so rudely.

      In the last couple pages of the section, you see Joe and his team racing against the best teams in the country. In this passage, I was utterly amazed by the detail that Brown was able to put in. Brown writes, “and pain suddenly came shrieking back into the boat, descending on all of them at once, searing their legs, their arms, their shoulders, clawing at their backs tearing at their hearts and lungs as they desperately gulped at air” (Brown 271). I don’t do rowing but I know what it’s like to be exhausted to that point. However, even if I had never experienced something like this, Brown describes it to the point where it seems as if you were sitting there, practically dying (not literally). I think that because of Brown’s expertise in writing it makes the book more interesting. I think that if anyone else but Brown wrote the book, I would probably have a different opinion on whether I like the book. Does anyone agree with me, or not?

  5. oliviasweng

    Hi.. 🙂

    Reading this section, I found things about Joe to talk about, and I agree with everything that was said above (talking about Joe). When Joe leaves in the summer to work, he thinks, “Demoted and promoted and demoted again, he’d started to think of himself as a kind of yo-yo in the hands of the coaches, or the Fates, he wasn’t sure which- up one minute, down the next” (Brown 196). Clearly, Joe’s life is not an easy one, and it relates to what we talking about in English a few classes ago – is it Joe’s fate that is causing all these obstacles?? Anyways, when Joe was alone after work, he would sit “in the dark of the shack, playing his banjo, his long, thin fingers dancing up and down the neck of the instrument, and singing softly to himself” (199). This brings a feeling of home, back when he used to sing on the bus with Joyce. It shows that Joe is a man who cares about the little things in life, things that seem small and insignificant. However, Joe never really got these things in his childhood, so I think something as small as a banjo song holds lots of meaning for him. These things make me all the more content that he is able to finally get a taste of what family should be like after Thula dies. However, I think if Thula had never treated Joe so harshly, he would not have grown to be such a strong and hardworking person.

    When Thula dies, Joe sees that “Rose and Polly were red about their eyes. So was Mike. Harry Junior had a distracted weary look” (222). What makes me curious is how Thula treated her own children; I mean, Joe’s half siblings must have known that Thula had abandoned Joe. Even though, yes, she was their mother, I wonder how the children saw the Joe-situation. I also that it was really nice and a very Joe-like thing to try and comfort the children with happy memories of Thula, even though she caused so much pain for him.

    I also really enjoyed reading about the races. They sounded so exciting, and as Emmy said, were extremely descriptive. The figurative language that used really heightened the senses, and I think it really added to the book.

    Well, until next time!

  6. jamesliu928

    Part 4 Page 274-end

    Guys, I’m so tired at this point with finals coming up and everything I just can’t get myself to stop procrastinating. I think this blog post was supposed to be due two weeks ago, but I’m doing it now, so please don’t mind.
    Addressing Olivia’s comment on fate controlling Joe’s life, I totally agree. Obviously, the Great Depression caused lots of the tragedies in the story, but Thula herself ruined and made Joe’s life better. Sure she abandoned Joe and made him fight for survival by himself at such a young age, but this ultimately made Joe the person who he is. Fate brought her into his life to strengthen him, and it really paid off. The hard labor made Joe physically strong and the emotional trauma helped Joe become determined to fight ‘till the end. I guess this ties everything back into whether Thula was a good or bad influence on Joe’s life, and I think although her morals were wrong the end result was pretty good. Please feel free to disagree. 给我希望
    Moving on, one thing that striked me in this section was a very minor detail that showed up in one of Joe’s races. The crew were getting ready for the Poughkeepsie race and, “as Washington tried to get into its stall, a large and recalcitrant white swan blocked the way” (Brown 276). Since this white swan only appeared in Washington’s stall and swans are a symbol of grace and elegance, I thought this was supposed to foreshadow the swing that the team would get into during the race. Later on, they did win by a huge margin and found their swing, so this swan wasn’t just a mere distraction. What do you think? Am I just overlong this?
    As I finished the book, I was really happy that Joe finally found the sense of belonging that he never felt before. He didn’t row just believing he had reliable crew mates, but “knowing that the other boys would be there for him, all of them, moment by precious moment” (Brown 355). This was like the culminating point of the whole entire novel. All the insecurities deeply rooted into Joe’s mind seemed to have suddenly disappeared. Ending the book on such a happy note made my day and tied the story all together.
    I think that in general, this is great book!

  7. oliviasweng

    In reply to James, I think the swan could very well have had that meaning. Even though this story is not fictional, (so the author could not have intentionally put that in as foreshadowing), I think that it does foreshadow what happened in the race – I mean, it did only appear in Washington’s stall.

    Finishing this book, I thought it was very nice how it ended and closed with “the boat”. In the very beginning, Brown describes when he told Joe he wanted to write a book, “Joe grasped my hand again and said he’d like that, but then his voice broke once more and he admonished me gently, ‘But not just about me. It has to be about the boat” (Brown 3). Joe mentions earlier that the boat represents both the boys and the shell – it represents the experience they went through. Then, in the end, the book concludes with the shell from the 1936 gold medal race. It describes how “Washington asked for her return, restored her, and put her on display in the student union” (Brown 368), which I think sort of represents how the memory and experience of the Olympics will always be there. In all, I think it was a good way to tie together the ending, by starting and ending the book with the same central thing: “the boat”.
    Just like James said, I was also glad that Joe found his family, and I also found another line that I think clearly shows this. A couple lines after James’ quote, it shows that Joe “felt whole. He was ready to go home” (Brown 355). These two lines held a lot of meaning for Joe, because he never really had a home growing up, because of his experiences with Thula. So for a person who never had a permanent home (he moved around a bit, and he also left for the summer to work), it is a pretty big and meaningful moment for him to finally be able to go “home”.

    • emmymarkgraf

      I agree with both Olivia and James about the swan. Even though this book is fictional the swan could have been a sign from fate that they were going to win.
      I noticed that while the author was describing the team’s stay in Germany he would often flash forward and describe the horrors that would take place in the future, “But there was a Germany the boys could not see, a Germany that was hidden from them, either design or by time… They knew nothing of the tendrils of blood that had billowed in the waters of the river Spree and the Langer See in June of 1933, when SA storm troopers rounded up hundreds of Köpenick’s Jews, Social Democrats, and Catholics and tortured ninety-one if them to death—beating some until their kidneys ruptured or their skin split open, then pouring hot tar into the wounds before dumping the mutilated bodies into the town’s tranquil waterways” (Brown 332). This something excerpt contrasts the idyllic reality in which the story takes place. These excerpts are scattered throughout the book. I thought these excerpts showed that while Germany seemed like the perfect emerging country, it was really a cruel, and racist dictatorship. This look of calm on the surface and turmoil underneath can relate to the feelings of the team. Joe describes how he felt inadequate to the team and that he was lucky, “But what Joe didn’t know yet—what he wouldn’t, in fact, fully realize until much later, when he and the other boys were becoming old men—was that every boy in the boat felt exactly the same that summer. Every one of them believed he was simply lucky to be rowing in the boat, that he didn’t really measure up to the obvious greatness of the other boys, and that he might fail the others at any moment. Every one of them was fiercely determined not to let that happen” (Brown 326). While the boys were calm and united on the surface deep down they were unsure of their abilities. Despite these difficulties they were able to perform and show the world that they were the best, similar to Germany and how they showed the world their best face while hiding their true intentions and and racist actions.
      Overall this book was very good and this was probably my favorite quarter of the book. 🙂

      • emmymarkgraf

        8/10
        At last this book is over. I will admit that this book is on the boring side, at least for the first couple chapters. However it get more interesting towards the end. This tells a wonderful story that shows the perseverance of Joe, growing up poor, left to fend for himself after being abandoned by his dad and stepmom, to becoming an Olympic champion at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. While this story can get monotonous at times, it does a wonderful job of describing the each of the characters lives, both in the past and in the future. These descriptions allows the reader to develop a whole understanding of the book. I personally liked the book because it described a sport that I haven’t seen many books about. It made me understand the sport rowing, both the physical and mental taxations. While the book has it’s downsides of being slightly monotonous at times, and being quite lengthy and descriptive. However, the author did a wonderful job telling this inspiring story and overall giving the story a more than adequate platform for everyone to learn about this encouraging and motivating story from unknown to success. I hope everyone (James and Olivia) enjoyed this story and I would recommend this book if you are looking for a real-life inspiring book with real people. 🙂

  8. jamesliu928

    7/10
    I gave this book this score because, like Emmy said, this book was pretty boring in the beginning with its short biographies and flashbacks. In the first fifty pages of the story, I honestly felt lost and I couldn’t understand a single thing that was going on. The story did get more interesting as the Joe got more into rowing. I like how the figurative language and the imagery that Brown uses really added to the story and made everything very vivid. Additionally, the historical background also played a pretty big part in making the story interesting. The struggles Joe had to get through and the insecurities he had was ultimately caused by the Great Depression. That gave the book a pretty big conflict which was resolved in the end of the book as he finally found a family he belonged in. This theme of determination and perseverance, like Emmy said, really opened up my view of the world around me. I mean, compared to Joe’s life, all my struggles are nothing. I wasn’t abandoned by my family and I don’t think I can handle hours of rowing practice along with schoolwork and working a job at the same time. I complain a lot about being too busy with the homework I get now when really, I have a ton of spare time on my hands. This book has taught me that it’s only impossible when you think that it is impossible. People can have their doubts, but the amount of effort you put into something will always pay off.

    • oliviasweng

      6/10

      The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown tells the story of a group of boys who train together to become the eventual 1936 Berlin Olympic Champions. The story uses Joe Rantz as its main character, a boy who faced rejection and hardship beginning at a very young age. Here,
      we see his trials and efforts to push through the training in rowing. However, the story is not solely focused on Joe. Instead, the story encompasses the whole experience – the boat, the coach, the boys, and the experience. Joe’s personal story is just a funnel for that. The novel in full is a story of hardship in the Great Depression, and a group of boys’ perseverance to push through and win the biggest race in the world.

      Honestly, I felt that this was just personally not a book meant for me. The story (as mentioned above) was a little too monotonous and boring for my taste. I also found the many, many, little biographies to be confusing to the story, and not very helpful to be honest. Even though I mostly found this book to be pretty unenjoyable, I was still able to see how moving the story was, and what it taught me about the outside world (like James and Emmy said).

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