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The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
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The Lifeboat (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Charlotte Rogan

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984968,624 (3.44)84
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Title:The Lifeboat
Authors:Charlotte Rogan
Info:Little, Brown Young Readers (2012), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Fiction
Rating:****
Tags:Shipwreck, Read 2012

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The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (2012)

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English (92)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (94)
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
Will complete review after book club meeting... ( )
  yvonne.sevignykaiser | Apr 2, 2016 |
Good literary novel that keeps you wondering what exactly is going on the whole time. I wouldn't say it is exactly resolved but it was a nice change of pace from the more action oriented and sci-fi stuff that normally occupies my fiction time. ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
A gritty tale of survival aboard a lifeboat after an ocean liner goes down. Twenty-one days of living on the edge, as told by Grace Winter, a newlywed young lady who is 'writing a diary' of the events. I liked the tale, but felt a bit incomplete when I finished. Still, I'm glad I read it, as it kept my interest and kept the pages turning! ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | Jan 23, 2016 |
Bottom Line:
Good book club book. Lots of discussion on this one, as it is open to so many interpretations. Rogan has a keen intelligence and an awareness of social forces. A good parable about power and helplessness. But like many parables, it skimps on characterization, realism, and tying up loose ends.

Elaboration:
Grace comments that it's as if everyone was born in that boat, and their past lives never existed. And it feels that way. Focus too much on practical, real-world questions, and the book falters. There were also a lot of questions left unanswered--about the sinking of the boat, Henry, Blake, the trunk of gold, and so on. I got the feeling that the story was leading to a "Who is Kaiser Soze!??" moment. There were hints, like the box of jewels that disappeared when Grace attacked Hardie, then reappeared in New York after the survivors arrived. The fact that Mary Ann was going to accuse Grace of murder, then Mary Ann dies and Grace "can't remember" that happening. So was Grace more manipulative and ruthless than we realized? Or was she helplessly under the influence of Mr. Hardie and Mrs. Grant, whom she constantly looks to for approval? The author never gives an answer either way. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you want from a story. Personally, I think the author was a tad too sly. I read to see an author's unique voice and perspective on events. To set up a situation, throw in a few hints, then say, "Who knows what really happened?" feels more like one of those group exercises you do in a psychology or law class. It's interesting to debate, but it feels like only half a story. If I'm filling in more than 50% of the story myself, well, what do I need the book for? I can generate my own ethical questions about people of various ages/occupations in a lifeboat.

I also question whether people would really act this way. No one on the boat offers any past experience or skills they learned to help in survival. We're talking about 1914, where most of the women would have known how to sew (and could fashion a fishing net), and the men likely spent their leisure time hunting and fishing. But everyone just sits helplessly, like they've never seen the outdoors before. And from what I've seen of recent disasters, people tend to bond and work together in survival situations, not turn on each other. It's oppressive hierarchy that leads to backstabbing and scrabbling for advantage. Look at past royal courts, or your typical high school.

This story works better as an allegory. The way Hardie sets himself up as the leader, and how everyone either vies for his favor or works to undermine his position - that felt true to how people behave in society. It's fascinating how the need for status can become more important than our own happiness or survival, and that theme was strongly present in both the lifeboat and in passengers' pasts. It was a clever move to set it in 1914, so that readers can see the class system more clearly. But things in today's world haven't changed as much as we'd like to think. And I liked that Grace saw herself as powerful and independent, even though she constantly sought the companionship and approval of others who had power. Isn't that the way we all are? We like to believe that we stand outside the influence of others, but that's rarely if ever true. ( )
  Malora | Jan 18, 2016 |
I could not put this book down at first. I just wanted to inhale it and not move until I was done. But then, well, this is all this intrigue and shiftiness implied, and not delivered on at all. I wasn't crazy about any of the characters, the plot is meh, and the "surprised" ending was super predictable. Just so so for me. ( )
  bookwormteri | Dec 21, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
Rogan writes viscerally about the desperate condition of the castaway, of what it is like to be “surrounded on four sides by walls of black water” or to be so thirsty your tongue swells to the size of “a dried and hairless mouse.” But it’s her portrait of Grace, who is by turns astute, conniving, comic and affecting, that drives the book.
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, SARAH TOWERS (May 4, 2012)
 
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Epigraph
I shall sing of the flood to all people. Listen!

—The myth of Atrahasis, last lines
Dedication
For Kevin
And for Olivia, Stephanie, and Nick
With love
First words
Today I shocked the lawyers, and it surprised me, the effect I could have on them.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Grace Winter, twenty-two, is both a newlywed and a widow.
She is also on trial for her life.


In the summer of 1914, Grace elopes with Henry Winter in London, hoping to escape the disapproval of his wealthy family. When the elegant ocean liner carrying them home to America suffers a mysterious explosion, Henry sacrifices his own safety and secures Grace a seat in a lifeboat, which its occupants quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

Adrift on the Atlantic, the weather deteriorating and supplies dwindling, the castaways scheme and battle, caught up in a vicious power struggle between a ruthless but experienced sailor and an enigmatic matron with surprising powers of persuasion. Choosing a side will seal her fate, but Grace has made her way in the world by seizing every possible advantage. As she recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met and considers the new life of privilege she thought she'd found, Grace must now decide — will she pay any price to keep it?

The Lifeboat is a masterful debut, a story of hard choices, ambition, and endurance, narrated by a woman as complex and unforgettable as the events she describes.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316185906, Hardcover)

Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found. Will she pay any price to keep it?

The Lifeboat is a page-turning novel of hard choices and survival, narrated by a woman as unforgettable and complex as the events she describes.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:51 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Forced into an overcrowded lifeboat after a mysterious explosion on their trans-Atlantic ocean liner, newly widowed Grace Winter battles the elements and her fellow survivors and remembers her husband, Henry, who set his own safety aside to ensure Grace's.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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