Livingstons stick oar in with Boat Race book

Rowing, specifically the University Boat Race, is building quite a canon of tales of conflict, with Blood Over Water, published this month ahead of the annual Blues race on the Thames this weekend, adding several new chapters of strife.

The book is written by brothers David and James Livingston, who were on opposing crews in the 149th Boat Race six years ago. David Livingston was among the guests at the recent SJA Sports Journalism Awards, invited by his agent David Luxton of Luxton Harris.

David rowed for Oxford, his brother for Cambridge, the first time brothers had battled each other in this traditionally British sporting occasion for more than a century.

In their book, David and James tell their stories for the first time, offering what the publishers, Bloomsbury, call “an intimate insight into one of our least understood but best-loved national sporting occasions”.

Told in alternating narratives, which help to add pace and excitement, Blood over Water is an emotional account of a brotherly relationship tested to breaking point, the desire to win driving a wedge between the siblings. As the race approached they were unable even to speak to each other, a relationship which took months to repair after the race.

Inevitable comparisons will be drawn with Dan Topolski’s True Blue, the tale of the Boat Race “mutiny”, which won a sports book of the year award and was made into a (slightly wet, and not in a rowing sense) movie, Mark de Rond’s overwrought To Hell and Back and Yanks at Oxford.

But early reviewers acclaim the Livingstons’ book for the genuine personal detail on every page about what it takes to get a seat in either one of the boats. As a study of how sport can build the team ethic but break a relationship, this book is a rarity.

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