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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio; Unabridged edition (June 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1427231796
  • ISBN-13: 978-1427231796
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,874,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

While in rehab, John writes to his old crew buddy, Rob, and alludes to a tragic event that took place while they were at school. Upon receiving the letter, Rob is taken back to his days at Fenton, an upscale boarding school where he rowed on the school’s elite, four-man crew team. In this beautifully dark drama, Irwin artfully weaves a tale that shifts back and forth in time from Rob’s crewing days at Fenton to his present life as a filmmaker for National Geographic. The structure of the story—­starting at the end and slowly unraveling the events that lead up to the ­climax—helps create tension and propels the reader forward, seeking to discover what went so terribly awry. The characters are well drawn and complex. Rob is a flawed but ultimately sympathetic man who habitually flees from situations that he can’t handle emotionally. Rowing plays a critical element in the book, but even those who are uninterested in the sport will find themselves gripped by this compelling story of coming to terms with the past. --Eve Gaus --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Irwin’s strong, simple prose, ably and convincingly read by Holter Graham, makes this coming-of-age story original and powerful.” – Book Page


“If you loved The Art of Fielding, you’ll love this novel…With passion and skill Holter Graham performs the often maddeningly perception-resistant Rob Carrey, the scholarship kid who must transform himself from lone sculler to team rower, and Graham’s racing sequences are heart pounding…Graham delivers a fast-paced, emotional, and thoroughly satisfying listening experience” – AudioFile Magazine


“It may be premature to declare Ron Irwin’s ‘Flat Water Tuesday’ the best audiobook of 2013, but I’ll do so without reservation…If you’ve never heard Holter Graham read a novel, a delight awaits you. He navigates seamlessly between the teenage and adult Carrey, and pulls off other voices – including those of coxswain Ruth and girlfriend Carolyn – with facility. His meter and tone enhance Irwin’s stirring writing. In short, Graham makes ‘Flat Water Tuesday’ the best way to ‘read’ this memorable novel.” – The Star-Ledger


“Beautifully concluded and a worthwhile listen” – New World Review


“Actor Holter Graham, who narrates this book, has a knack for these young-men-on-the-brink stories, and he was spot-on for Richard Ford’s Canada and Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding. His performance is just as satisfying in Flat Water Tuesday, and he is particularly good in the competition sequences, giving Irwin’s best prose the voice it deserves.” – The Chicago Tribune


Praise for the print edition of  Flat Water Tuesday

"All you ever wanted to know about the world of competitive rowing is contained in the pages of Ron Irwin's new novel, whose hero is not only a prodigious oarsman but the lover of two memorably realized women."—J.M. Coetzee

"Flat Water Tuesday is the best debut novel I've read this year, a compulsively readable dark drama that weaves multiple storylines toward one marvelous denouement. Ron Irwin writes with confidence and skill and authenticity in this exploration of identity and the poisonous fuel of ambition. It will call other books -- A Separate Peace, The Art of Fielding -- to mind but stands alone as an original and powerful work. I'll read anything Irwin writes after this."—Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of The Prophet

“In Ron Irwin's capable hands, past and present fuse into a haunting meditation on class, guilt, and the perils of victory.  You don't need to have set foot in a scull to be swept along by this affecting book.  Flat Water Tuesday is the debut of a deft and talented new voice.”—Eric Puchner, author of Pen/Faulkner Award-finalist, Model Home

“With echoes of A Separate Peace, Ron Irwin's wonderful Flat Water Tuesday is a masterful coming of age story about making one's place in the world, about the sacrifices love asks of us and of the rewards it may give us, about friendship and responsibility and so many other aspects of being human. It's compelling, moving and often heart-breaking -- all of the things we want good novels to be.”—Joe Schuster, author of The Might Have Been

“A gripping read.  If you’ve ever marveled at the fluidity of a quadruple scull cutting through water in first light, and wondered what makes its 4-man motor work, this book will provide the answers, and then some.  Irwin is adept at revealing the tricky bonds between rowers, and the way those bonds can shape—and misshape—a life.”—Tom McNeal, author of To Be Sung Underwater, USA Today 2011 Best Book of the Year  

"The opening scene of Ron Irwin's lovely debut novel left me breathless.  Irwin writes astutely about finding one's place in the world, testing the limits of our endurance, and how we find the strength to carry on.”—Amanda Eyre Ward, author of Close Your Eyes

"In taut, muscular prose Irwin details the punishing training regimen of The God Four, a crew of competitive oarsmen who commit themselves body and soul to the pain and glory of their sport. Flat Water Tuesday is a powerful consideration of the exhilarating love of competition and the high cost of victory. Ron Irwin has written a propulsive, heart-stopping story in the tradition of such sporting classics as Alan Sillitoe’s “The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner,” and Bernard Malamud’s The Natural Flat Water Tuesday is a world-class champion of a novel."—Amber Dermont, NY Times bestselling author of The Starboard Sea

"Ron Irwin’s rowing tale —Flat Water Tuesday – brings to life a rite of passage that is complex, insightful, and stirring.  Inside the gunnels of the rowing shell secrets are kept. Powerful fathers produce legendary sons, and legends arise that haunt some forever.  His artistry weaves heroism, rivalry, romance, tragedy, and raw life together inside the ethereal dynamics of a boarding school crew—not any crew, but “The God Four”—which, in the end, leaves all to wrestle with the reckoning that God was indeed watching.  Written in the tradition of Dead Poets Society, Ron Irwin’s story is a must for anyone who loves rowing, sports, or just a darn good read."—Susan Saint Sing, member of the 1993 U.S. National Rowing Team and author of The Wonder Crew

"Flat Water Tuesday is more than just a wonderful coming-of-age novel, it's a gripping and beautifully drawn portrait of a man coming to grips with his demons. His unforgettable story will take you through heartbreak and back, where resilience can teach you not just about achievement, but also about love."—Elizabeth Percer, author of An Uncommon Education

"A biting, beautiful novel about the cost of winning and the lessons of loss. In Robert Carrey, Ron Irwin has created a character of precision and depth, a man who must learn that he cannot scull through life alone." —Jennifer Miller, author of The Year of the Gadfly


More About the Author

Ron Irwin is an American writer who divides his time between Cape Town, South Africa and various places in the United States. He grew up in Buffalo, New York, where he learned to row. He attended boarding school and college in New England, where he was part of a number of winning crews. He has worked as a journalist, a documentary filmmaker, and as a teacher. He lectures in the Centre for Film and Media at the University of Cape Town.

Flat Water Tuesday - an interview with Ron Irwin

Prof. Joan Hambidge, a buddy and colleague of author Ron Irwin, asked him a few questions over a glass of whisky.

JH: Congratulations on your wonderful debut, Flat water Tuesday, a riveting novel. The sport is not just about brute power. Or endurance. Or the ability to suffer. Rowing in a team forces you to respond to what other men do in the boat. To adhere to a strategy. To follow commands. To put your petty gripes and prejudices and fears aside" (65). Rowing is a metaphor for endurance. Are you personally interested in this sport?

RI: I learned how to row at the West Side Rowing Club in Buffalo, New York when I was 15 and went on to boarding school in Connecticut, where I rowed for three years. I also rowed at university in two varsity teams. I have rowed as a sculler, in a four-man shell and in an eight-man shell. It is safe to say that there was a considerable time in my life when all that mattered was rowing. I was lucky enough to have had magnificent coaching and to have rowed with some truly talented oarsmen. It really wasn't until my last year in university when it occurred to me that there might be more to life than rowing, and I quit the sport so I could have free time to have fun, party ... do normal college student things. But I also knew that I was not going to get much better as a rower. I had reached my personal best during the final races of my third year at university. Overall, I was a good rower, but not as good as the main character in my novel. I had friends at boarding school who were truly gifted athletes, and my knowledge of what they experienced informed the novel. My brother was the captain of his university team, and he was probably a stronger oar than I was. He was lucky enough to row in the English Henley in an eight named after my father, who supported our efforts wholeheartedly.

Rowing is a metaphor for endurance and commitment to a team. There is no sport I know of that asks so much of its participants. Rowers train year round. My university team forbade drinking during the racing season. Rowers pride themselves on going out on the water in truly atrocious weather. There were numerous times when I would come off the water with icicles hanging off my oar. It is a sport that rewards obsession. You don't need to be very coordinated to row and it doesn't take a long time to really excel at the sport if you start out in good shape - unlike, say, golf or tennis, which require years of work before you have any proficiency. But there is nothing like the feeling of a truly fast boat. I still have dreams about it. It feels like flying.

JH: The book reflects on death and the impact of a suicide on friends (buddies) at an American school (Fenton). "Blue blood" and Ivy League references analyse class differences in America. Comment.

RI: The important thing to remember about boarding school is that it is an intense experience where coming from wealth really doesn't matter, because everyone is wealthy. Kids at that age are far more concerned about sporting prowess and a certain kind of savoir-faire than class. But if you come into that environment from sheer poverty, like my main character does, it is intimidating. On the other hand, if you are good at rowing, you immediately join the most elite club in an already elite environment. A good oarsman is treated like a god at a top rowing school. There is nothing like it. Some other sports have a certain status in American boarding schools - like football or hockey - but most of my rowing friends looked down on those. The importance of rowing, which is an Olympic sport, can simply not be overestimated. The major race of the year is held in England (Henley), and the expense of sending a team overseas to row an $80 000 boat down a race course once or twice is astronomical. There is a reason why the top Ivy League Schools - Harvard, Yale, Princeton - recruit top teams. Harvard has a waiting list of alumni who want to donate boats. The other schools probably have the same thing. It is an intensely clubby experience. In fact, the top rowing team at the boarding school in the novel (and at my real-life boarding school) is actually called the "club", not the "varsity". There was no other sports team on campus that had its own club. And all you needed to do to get in was to be willing to take a great deal of physical punishment. Family connections meant nothing. How much money you had, what you wore, how nice you were, who your friends were, these were are all irrelevant. I remember feeling really sorry for the son of some famous millionaire banker because we could all beat him on the ergometer (rowing machine). I think the kid owned a Porsche, but to my mind he was a truly sorry figure.

I always say that the sport is "tribal". And that tribal experience is what informs the parts in the novel about rowing.

JH: Rob Carrey, the main storyteller, a filmmaker for National Geographic, travels to different countries. The backdrop of Africa (for instance Zambia) has an enormous impact on his experience of New York. The novel could be read as the insider returning as the outsider. You are an American living in South Africa and frequently returning to the States. Did your current position as an ex-American - albeit full-blooded Yank - influence this device?

RI: Certainly. I have been lucky enough to do a great deal of travelling, and of course I have lived in South Africa for over 20 years. But I still think of the USA - and more specifically, Buffalo, New York - as home and travel back often. Over the years I have come to realise just how different my experience was, rowing in high school and at university. Especially since I teach at a university! The sport was intense, but why was I so obsessed with it? I think that if I were to be 18 again, I probably would have a lot more fun in college than I did back then. When I went to university my first order of business was to try out for the rowing team. I enjoyed my classes, but rowing was really just as important. Possibly more important. I had two or three girlfriends dump me because they got tired of the fact that I was getting up at the crack of dawn every day to row and couldn't go to the various parties with them because I needed to be in bed sleeping. And my weekends were given over to racing or training. And all my friends were rowers. It was crazy. What was I thinking? I really should have partied more. Seriously.

But I also should say that I write from personal experience. In my fiction I am trying to grapple with problems that remain unresolved. Rowing was a pursuit that was very important to me, but of course I never was quite as good as I wanted to be, and I discovered as I got older that many of my friends who were excellent rowers had a very hard time adjusting to adult life outside of the boat. In fact, one of my rowing friends from university days did jump off a bridge. I got the call from a former teammate while I was at home in Buffalo after having been in South Africa for two or three years. It was quite a shock. He was a super-successful guy, a great oar ... one of those people that seems to have it all. So I put that into the novel. Every year I go back to the United States I am more and more a tourist. In one sense, I am also a tourist to my own history. But aren't we all?

JH: The impact of youth traumas - for instance the death of the main character's sister and the family's response to the tragedy - is carefully analysed. The book is a reflection on youth. Did Rob Carrey have to return to his youth (as Alice Miller would suggest) to understand his current position and difficult relationship with his partner?

RI: I think that what happens to you in your teen youth stays with you. Rowing is a wonderful pursuit, but it does create a person who can be extremely callous to the suffering of other people. It also creates somebody who is rather intense. My university coach used to say that he never knew a top rower who wasn't a prick. It's a sad thing to say, but it takes a certain kind of arrogance to be a really good oarsmen. You need to really believe that you are better not only than everybody else in the boat, but also than another boat full of guys who were just as big and committed. You need to be under the impression that you deserve to win all the time. You need to look down on people who give in to weakness. You need to be extremely harsh on yourself as well. You need to force yourself to get up every single morning to train and force yourself to get better all the time. Most of the guys I knew who were really good did this partly because they couldn't stand the thought of somebody else beating them. It wasn't about the beauty of the sport, or teamwork. It was about being the best and making it look easy.

The main character has grown up, however. And while much of the novel is about rowing, its heart is about the love between Rob and Carolyn. Rob knows that he is losing her and he desperately wants to hold on to her. From the main character's perspective as an adult, rowing has lost its meaning. The most important thing in the world is holding on to this very special woman. And yet, due to his own thoughtlessness, their relationship has become fractured. Part of it is that he simply needs to say he's sorry. But that's difficult for many men. Rob is one of them. Part of understanding what happens in the novel between these two adults is understanding what happens to Rob and his past. You need to learn as you get older that being tough also means knowing when you are wrong in learning how to sympathise with somebody else's feelings, even when she's being impossible. But of course this is the story of men and women since the beginning of time. More than that, when you become an adult you realise there are things in life that are far worse than losing a race. Like saying goodbye to the love of your life.

JH: The impact of alcohol and the effect on Rob's judgment is also a leitmotif in the novel. The fight in the hotel in Zambia and Rob's view of himself as a "wicked loser" (184), for instance.

RI: You are right - the main character is quite a drinker. So is his girlfriend, Carolyn. I think I wanted to explore the fact that drinking creates an alternative reality that you might say parallels the alternative reality of sports. Drinking in Flat Water Tuesday is often a means of either numbing the pain or breaking down barriers. There is no question that Rob is somebody who struggles to express his feelings, and who struggles with tragedy. Drinking is a means of escaping from his feelings and indeed his worries. But people who drink to escape often find themselves in situations that are far worse than they started out with. Rob's situation in Zambia is a case in point. Upon getting bad news from Carolyn, he immediately goes to the bar and gets extremely drunk and then beaten up by the security guards in his hotel. I think many men have had similar episodes, where they begin drinking knowing that they are going to get absolutely blotto because sobriety is so shitty at the moment. When Rob goes back to Carolyn, one of his major mistakes is allowing himself to wallow in his pain, and to drink alone. It means that he makes a crucial error while he is taking care of her, and this has disastrous ramifications. But could it also be that we sometimes drink to manage love? I think for many people the incredible power of the feeling of being in love needs to be dulled. I think there is a reason why wine and love go together. For some people the feeling is so extreme, so intense, that alcohol is the best way to handle it. Drinking makes it all far more humorous. And it reminds us that we are, after all, animals driven by biology and chemicals and not always by the endless, tiring demands of our emotions. Does it sound bad to say that I've never loved a woman who didn't appreciate a good bottle of wine?

JH: You are a former student of JM Coetzee, who praises the book on the dust cover. Any comments on the impact of creative writing courses and mentoring another writer? I think you wrote Flat Water Tuesday over a period of ten years ...?

RI: Studying under JM Coetzee was, of course, a major privilege, and I think that he provided what is certainly the best thing a mentor can provide: a good example. He was (and probably still is) immensely hardworking and self-effacing. He took great pains with his writing and forced me to do the same; and more than that, he made it clear to me that being a writer was a very serious business. This was important for me to learn, because I think when I was younger I thought of being a writer as a kind of an outgrowth of travelling the world and basically having lots of fun. JM Coetzee showed me that it was just as difficult to be a good writer as it is to be a good lawyer or a good doctor and it takes just about the same amount of commitment to the career. He also was an immensely professional person: he never missed the meeting and ensured that my academic and creative work were up to par. When I began working in the University of Cape Town Creative Writing Department I tried to bring that same kind of seriousness to my own work. But of course, I don't have the kind of gravitas that JM Coetzee has. Instead, I try to approach student work like an editor would. I look for certain mistakes that seem to come from students again and again. I have overseen over a dozen MA degrees in creative writing and also helped over two dozen people find publication. In so doing I have picked up many errors that irritate acquisition editors and publishing houses. I also find that I am not as disciplined as I think I should be, and really hate editing, even though I force myself to do it.

The story of Flat Water Tuesday's creation is fairly interesting. I started the novel back in 1992 and found an American agent to represent it a couple of years later. But the original version was only about boarding school. It did not have the adult love story which is so crucial to what it is now. The writing was also pretty crude. It was rejected by every single publisher who saw it, and when I rewrote it in 1995 the revised version got the same treatment. I think I kept making the same kind of editorial errors, and I needed to learn more about the art of fiction before I returned to the novel. Teaching was certainly a wonderful means of learning how to edit myself. I was also ridiculously stubborn. It never occurred to me to write a novel about another subject. That would have seemed like giving up. And then two years ago my friend at the University of Cape Town, Stephen Watson, died quite unexpectedly and quite tragically. Near the end, he told a close friend of his that he was glad he had "left a paper trail", meaning that he was very glad he had left so much good poetry behind and a collection of wonderful essays. It was at that point I realised that I owed myself one more crack at Flat Water Tuesday. I wanted a paper trail. So I literally became my own student. I opened up my old manuscript and read it as if it were a student's work and discovered that most of it had to be deleted. I sat down over a few weeks and simply pared down the novel to a few chapters and then started from scratch. I didn't tell anyone I was doing this; I simply went to work. I knew, however, that I wanted the love story to be the central element of the novel. And I wanted to weave that story into the rowing narrative. This is what made the book completely different from what it had been. Rowing became a metaphor for the loss that these two characters, Rob and Carolyn, were facing together. When I finally did finish the novel I knew I had told the story that I had always wanted to tell. When I sent the manuscript to my editor in New York, Kathleen Gilligan at St Martin's Press, it was immediately accepted. I have told dozens of students to believe in their work and not take no for an answer, I think I had to tell myself that as well.

Find out more about Flat Water Tuesday at www.ronirwin.com or www.facebook.com/fwtnovel.

Customer Reviews

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Ron Irwin has written an excellent story.
Nicola Hayward
In addition, the plot and characters are fairly stereotypical, and the book has a completely predictable ending.
I was sorry when I came to the end of the book, which incidentally has a great ending.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By P. Kingsriter on May 22, 2013
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There's a great deal to like about "Flat Water Tuesday", a novel that quietly but compellingly covers copious emotional ground.

The story revolves around a psychologically hardened high-schooler, Rob Carrey, who has a deep-seated need to be independent, completely self-reliant. A gifted single-scull rower, he's given a full scholarship to Fenton, a prestigious prep school for the exceptionally well-heeled that is renowned for it's four-man rowing team, known far and wide as "The God Four". Distrustful of his silver-spooned teammates and the system that brought him to Fenton, Carrey is a fish out of water. He doesn't feel he fits in any way, which jeopardizes his participation as a member of "The God Four" in a sport where absolute coordination is key to victory.

The story see-saws back and forth between Carrey's story as a young rower at Fenton and his adult life. Fifteen years after graduation, Carrey is a freelance documentary filmmaker going through an excruciating separation with his partner and lover of five years, the magnetic and intrepid Carolyn.

There is an ominous tone from the outset of the book as the older Carrey receives an ill-boding letter from one of his "God Four" teammates. The letter alludes to something that happened at Fenton, something that permanently affected the life of the letter writer. Author Ron Irwin skillfully guides the audience along, revealing and foreshadowing just enough to keep one guessing for most of the book. Throughout the story, one feels that just about any outcome, good or terrible, is possible.

The characters are complex, very well-developed, and span from Connor Payne, the presumably dauntless blue-blooded rowing sage, to an inherently lovable dopey giant, John Perry.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Aoife on August 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. It's beautifully written, compelling, and deeply moving.

It's not really a book about rowing, it's a love story.

Having said that, I reckon Flat Water Tuesday will be to rowers as The Princess Bride is to fencers - a book you've read and adored, and a film you've seen and loved, before you ever took up the sport, but one, once you're within the tradition, you can quote from memory line after line years after the sculls are stowed and the arches have dropped. It's a triumph.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By AIROLF VINE VOICE on June 20, 2013
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a beautifully written novel. In fact, listening to the audiobook I was regretting the fact that I wasn't reading the book myself, in part because there were many well-written passages, but mostly because the plot is riveting. I felt that the reader, Holter Graham, wasn't reading it as fast as I would've had I been reading the book myself.

Yet, the audiobook has a lot of merit, particularly, in that it gave my morning and afternoon commute a bit of a pep for a few weeks. I would wake up in the morning looking forward to listening to the next chapter/adventure of the protagonist who goes to a prep school on a rowing "scholarship".

"Flat Water Tuesday" is an intricate novel that smartly combines the yesteryear with today's romance. Although this is his first novel, Ron Irwin is an expert at drawing parallels between the ups and downs of our lives as children and our failures as adults.

The thread Irwin weaves is often predictable, but the book is so well written that it's not about the destination - it's really about character development and getting to know the sport of rowing, which is not a topic discussed often in coming-of-age novels. (Full disclosure: I have very limited exposure to rowing and never really thought I would be interested in watching it, much less reading/listening about it).

The audiobook is on 9 CDs and is read by one person. Graham reads the novel with the correct intonation and emotion, but the dialogues (which are much less frequent than one might expect for such a dynamic novel) sometimes fall flat (pun intended). Still, the novel is very strong and draws you in, so that you are able to overlook the inconsistency of the different voices of the characters in the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Morrigan Alexandros VINE VOICE on June 23, 2013
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Rob Carey is a teenager that comes from a working class family and goes to an elite private school (thanks to a scholarship) for a year of rowing. Rob is a rower. Rob has a chip on his shoulder. The world is against Rob. Rob is angry at the world. Rob is a teenager. This is a coming of age story, twice over. We meet Rob as a teenager trying to prove himself to everyone (while making it look like he just doesn't care). And we also meet Rob as an adult, now a documentary videographer going through a tough time in his life and relationship with his girlfriend. In both situations, Rob needs to grow up.

The author characterized the self obsessed mentality of a teenager that is burdened with a lot of angst extremely well. The writing is pretty good and the story flows well. But, to be honest, I think this is all thanks to the narrator, he did a superb job of infusing life into this rather boring story. If this was a paper book, instead of an audiobook, I do not think I would have finished it. I was bored throughout most of the book and groaned every time I realized how many CDs were left. The main character just bored me as an adult. As a teenager, he was far more interesting.

The book was slow moving. The character was annoying sometimes. And the story could have been so much better. The saving grace of this book was the amazing job the narrator did to give it some life.
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