Reviews

Blood Over Water - David & James Livingston

Bloomsbury

Mark Haddon

"The Boat Race is the most divisive event in rowing...an extraordinary and gripping story of a battle between brothers."

Sir Matthew Pinsent

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Without even getting past the front cover, it is clear that 'Blood Over Water' is another book about the Cambridge/Oxford Boat Race. However, this particular book looks at the story from a new perspective - two perspectives in fact, that of the two authors David and James Livingston. Not only were these two brothers both training for the 2003 Boat Race, but they were each doing so at the different Universities! Coupling the already taxing demands of Boat Race training with the stress and turmoil of their relationship, it makes for a gripping read.

The book is easy to read and digest with it regularly flowing from James to David and back again. Consequently, it doesn't take long for an image of both characters to form. What quickly became apparent to me was David's long-standing determination to beat his older brother. Within weeks of starting his training, he not only speaks of his hatred of Cambridge, but of James too. This is understandable in some ways; having spent his whole life being beaten to the punch by his brother, it seems natural that he wants to do something first or better. The normal Boat Race emotions take this to a new, and perhaps slightly extreme, level though, which I found quite sad. Even by the middle of the story, I found myself worrying that their brotherly relationship may never recover from this race.  I felt for their parents who must have really struggled during that time, with their sons pulling their loyalties and family in opposing directions.

Whilst he was in no way faultless, it seemed to me that James' maturity (both as a returning Blue and the older brother) is what stopped their relationship from being completely destroyed. Many times during the year he would reach out to Dave only to be bashed back or ignored. Yet he seemed to accept that his brother was just caught up in the whole mentality of the Boat Race squad. Following from that, it seemed the outcome of the race was the right one for their relationship. As terrible as it probably was for James to lose, it seemed that David's bitterness would have continued to manifest had he not won the race and seen the impact of his behaviour on his brother and best friend.

This book is very intense at times, however the relationship between James and David is really interesting to read. Much of it is thought provoking and many parts are motivating and inspiring. It is definitely worth reading!

 

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Reviewed on 17/04/2009 by Angela

 

Reviewed item details

ISBN: 0747595151

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