The Last Amateurs - Mark de Rond

Mark Haddon

"Don't underestimate what an achievement this work is.  The University boat clubs are very tight, closed circles and it speaks volumes for the author that he has become so trusted a member as to be allowed to articulate the reality of a private season."

Peter Drury, ITV Commentator



I saw the review for Mark de Ronds work in 'Rowing and Regatta' magazine during autumn last year.  At the time I was a little sceptical about whether it was something I would enjoy.  Whilst I watch the Boat Race every year, I'm simply interested because it's a high-profile rowing event; I have never had any particular bias to either of the Universities.  Consequently, I thought this book might be a little too 'Oxbridge' for my liking.  However, I eventually decided I should give it my attention and I was not disappointed.

One thing I did not realise was this book is not simply an observation of the CUBC squad for a year (2006/7 season).  The author is actually a Cambridge fellow whose specialism is ethnography: the scientific description of peoples and cultures with reference to their particular customs and characteristics.  As such, the book does start off with a theoretical and philosophical tone to it.  Once the final Boat Race line-up is introduced on page 13, it starts to read much more like a story and over the subsequent 215 pages, de Rond takes you from the first day of CUBC squad trials to the victorious boat race day.

Being a rower, I find it hard to know whether this book would appeal to those who do not know very much of the sport.  The Author does, however, explain many of the basic terms and references and doesn't presume knowledge of rowing terminology.  For any rower, former Oxbridge student, or indeed Oxbridge rower, this story will definitely be of interest.  Even as a novice rower, so much of what these guys go through will ring true - the pain of trials, the arduous training through all temperatures, the nerves on race day and the continuing self-evaluation.  However, one thing I took from this book was how they focus and commit to their objective.  This group of men really want to reach the 'Blue Boat' and their bloody-minded focus is something that many of us could use a little bit of these days!



Reviewed on 11/01/2009 by Angela


Reviewed item details

ISBN: 1848310153

Publisher: Icon Books Ltd

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