Daniel James Brown knew what he was doing before he set out to write this highly entertaining and interesting piece of non-fiction. In fact, for me it will likely go down as the best I’ve read in this decade. In past decades, among the best that gripped my attention and tugged my emotions, I’d say that “The Perfect Storm” was the story of the ’90s, and for me, “Zeitoun” ranks near the top for those written at the turn of the century. “Boys in the Boat” rivals anything I’ve read this decade and suspect it will be a top contender for the best in the ten years of non-fiction I’ll be reading between now and 2020.
As a fiction writer, I rarely read non-fiction, but when I do, I’m reminded of where a truly good story comes from. With “Boys in the Boat”, I found myself riding along with the crew of “Husky Clipper” as they stroked or, in the terms the author more accurately describes as a crew of 9 swinging to “Gold” in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. As a voracious reader, I’ll offer a few things prospective readers should consider in their decision to invest their precious reading time in this fabulous work:
– The historical period was instrumental in the makings of a good story with plenty of drama (depression era, the rise of the Nazis, persecution of Jewish people, and the emerging age of media)
– The characters, all real people with a history of their own. From the coaches, the boat builder, and the entire crew, not just the 9 that represented USA in “Eights” at the ’36 Olympiad, but their families, the coach and crew of their rivals at Cal, and the political opponents in Germany during that era.
Brown delivers a well researched and meticulously crafted narrative that takes the reader on a blow-by-blow ride into the world of the common oarsman who achieved the uncommon during a period in history that shaped the world we live in. As I read, I found myself riding the roller coaster ride between laughing, riveted at the edge of my arm chair, and wiping the tears from my eyes as a result of the emotion the author managed to evoke by presenting readers with authentic stories that would resonate with anyone with a heart.