From the Stacks
By Carol Ann Robb, PPL Reference Librarian

I will be forever grateful to the patron who, back in 2015, told me I needed to read Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat” (thank you Suzy!). I admit to being very skeptical—why would someone living in Kansas want to read about a crew team back in the 1930’s? But once I picked up the book, I became invested in the lives of those young men who epitomized the American spirit as they fought to overcome their circumstances during the Depression to become champions, not just at the Olympic level, but in life.

My mission the past eight years has been to recommend “Boys in the Boat” to as many readers as possible. I always say I was initially skeptical about the subject matter but it remains one of the most heart-warming, life-affirming stories found on any book shelf in the country, then force the book into their hands. And nearly everyone comes back with the same reaction—“this was so good!”—and I smile, trying to remain humble and not say, “I told you so” but instead agree with a quiet, “yes, it is” and then ask, “did you watch the race on YouTube?” (you really need to). It’s a book that certainly stays with you.

So when I heard there was to be a movie version I was both excited and apprehensive. How could anyone do justice to Brown’s wonderful book? Would condensing the story minimize its impact? There’s already a documentary that appeared on PBS—would a Hollywood version trivialize the impact of the story? I was somewhat reassured after hearing George Clooney was behind the project but still, could he deliver the heart and soul of that crew team?

Yes he has! I still prefer the print version—three years of the team has been condensed into one—but the film shows the physicality of those young men rowing in sync. As I sat in the darkened theater, I realized my breathing matched theirs as they rowed and even though I knew the outcome of the races, I was on the edge of my seat until the winner was declared. The cinematography is gorgeous, although the scenes of Nazi Germany were terrifying. All of the actors were new to me so I was seeing the characters and not the stars portraying them. I walked out happy.

Both the book and movie get thumbs up—I encourage you to read and watch “Boys in the Boat” (and then possibly read it again) and then recommend them to your friends. It’s a history lesson as well as a timely reminder that sometimes the good guys do win.