Book group – The Boys in the Boat

Who would have thought that a group of women in Chiswick would have chosen a sports memoir for book group and loved it so much? Well, some in the group are actually quite sporty and into rowing themselves. But it came as a surprise to me. I was drawn in by the extraordinary perseverance of the young rowers. So much that I recall having to tell my children to make their own dinner because I was in the middle of a dramatic and suspenseful race scene. Well done to Daniel James Brown for weaving a compelling sports drama through the Depression and Hitler’s Germany.

  1. How did the author evoke time and place throughout the book, particularly the desperately poor conditions of Joe’s childhood?
  2. How did Joe’s experiences exploring forests and working with lumber add to his respect for the shells used for rowing?
  3. How did the depiction of Nazi Germany just before the war add to your knowledge of that period in history? Did you think more could have been done by the International Olympic Committee to uncover the discrimination and corruption?
  4. How would Joe and his crewmates have been different people if they had not grown up during the Depression? What impact did the crushing economic downturn have on their determination to win?
  5. What did George Pocock’s quotes at the beginning of each chapter add to the book?
  6. What role do university sports programmes play in building young students into men and women?
  7. Do we have a modern-day equivalent to the 1936 US Olympic rowing crew? Could we ever?
  8. As the story was told mostly from Joe’s perspective, was there a voice you missed? Another character whose perspective would have added to the descriptions of events?
  9. What do you think motivated Judy, Joe’s daughter, to tell this story through the author?
  10. What makes ‘underdog’ stories so compelling? Why do we root for the plucky team coming up from the back and why are we so thrilled to see them overcome adversity?

Boys in the Boat