Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Review of "Bert Wilson Marathon Winner," by J. W. Duffield

 Review of

Bert Wilson Marathon Winner, by J. W. Duffield

Four out of five stars

 I did not check the publication date before I started reading this book about a long distance runner. When I reached a passage that praised the German Kaiser, there was an immediate flipping to the back of the title page, where I learned that it was published in 1914. Since World War I started in August of 1914 and it took some time for the anti-German sentiment to build in the United States, this was the last year where such a statement could be made in a book.

 This is one in a series of books about Bert Wilson and this is the first one that I have read. In that series, he exhibits a wide variety of skills, in and out of athletic competition. In this one, he is a long distance runner training for the marathon in the upcoming Olympic Games to be held in Berlin, Germany in 1916. That event was cancelled due to the outbreak of World War I.

 The action is what you would expect from a character portrayed as a humble superstar, facing intense difficulties, yet succeeding through skill and determination. The American Olympic team traveled by ship and there was an encounter with an iceberg that will remind all readers of the story of the doomed Titanic.

 The most interesting aspect of the book is the rendition of adolescent sports fiction in the second decade of the twentieth century. The boys lead very clean lives, there is minimal interaction with females and the group are determined to win while avoiding any possible hint of cheating. Idealistic and unrealistic to a fault to the modern reader accustomed to conflict, human imperfections and competitive fire.

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