It is not easy to explain to anyone what the big attraction of rowing is, and this book mostly succeeds (see also The Amateurs). The author's (or at least Topolski's) passion for the big race is communicated well, and the book is full of entertaining anecdotes about previous Boat Race legends.
However, given that this claims to be a true story, the characters have an unsatisfying comic-book feel about them, and are barely recognisable from their real-life equivalents. The action is full of noticeable omissions in the interest of a nice straightforward story. There are heroic goodies and dastardly baddies, and the simmering anti-Americanism that is never far beneath the surface of much English journalism shines through.
Regardless of who did or said exactly what in 1987, there is an interesting debate to be had around creeping professionalism in one of the last truly amateur sports, around the lengths that the universities will go to win this race, and around the vicious spitefulness that successful rowers (particularly in Oxford) often seem to incite, but this book isn't it.