I must confess, the occasion that I will choose nonfiction novel for the sole purpose of enterainment is an extremely rare one. However, the first half of Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat may have forever changed that mindset. The story is a complex one, focusing not only on the freshmen rowing team from the University of Washington, but various human struggles, such as extreme poverty, prominent class divisions, and pure determination. In addition, both the historical factors of the impending World War II and the ongoing Great Depression set the scene for a story of the complexities of humanity.
I enjoyed the author’s focus on Joe Rantz, a member of the University of Washington rowing team. This aspect of the novel not only demonstrates the rare abilty of an author to characterize a real person, but added an incredibly meaningful piece of information to the everpresent team of hardwork and resourcefulness. And though the book may be called The Boys in the Boat, Brown does a wonderful job of presenting the contributions and personal nuances of the multiple women important to the story, straying from the “accessory” mindset that females are so often stuck with in male-centric novels.
Though I have been thoroughly appreciating the eloquent writing and clever craft of the book, I admit that one facet has left me confused. The author often describes the sport of rowing, something that should come as no surprise to anyone. However, I often feel confused at the many literary depictions of the activity and the lengthy explainations may only lend to a perplexed reader. For examples, Brown writes about one of the teams many races, stating “As they passed the quarter-mile mark, the two-boats slowly came even. Then Washington began to overtake California, methodically, seat by seat, the boys still rowing at a remarkably low thirty” (Brown 98). Because I obviously do not (or have never) have experience as a rower, the intense athletic language can at times present itself as slightly boring and takes away from the otherwise fascinating plot.
At this point in time, I am excited by the discovery of this nonfiction novel that tells a story with a much deeper meaning. Though I am only halfway through, I recommend this novel to anyone who is put off by the genre of nonfiction. As I very much look foward to learing more about the sport of rowing, enhancing my knowledge of history, and gaining a deeper understanding of the journey of the actual boys in the boat.