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Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

Lifeboat (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Charlotte Rogan

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802None11,379 (3.48)72
Authors:Charlotte Rogan
Info:Virago Press (UK) (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (2012)

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This is a powerful and taut novel from a new author about the experiences of a number of passengers and one crew member who escape in a lifeboat from the sinking of the (fictional) Empress Alexandra liner in 1914. The novel focuses very largely on the relationships between the survivors, their mental deterioration and the moral dilemmas thrown up by their situation, and it contains some powerful set piece scenes. The cause of the sinking is never made clear (though there is an explosion involved) and the eventual rescue of the survivors after three weeks afloat is dealt with very laconically in retrospect. Three of the female survivors are charged with the murder of one of the other survivors on the lifeboat. The events don’t all happen in a chronological order, and occasionally I felt as though an unnecessary spoiler had been given about the fate of a particular character, but this is a very minor point. An excellent page turner. ( )
  john257hopper | Apr 8, 2014 |
For most of the read, I found this book pretty gripping - at first, from the suspense of wondering how things would turn out on the lifeboat, and then from curiosity about what the twist would turn out to be: what were all the glances really about that Grace interprets and reinterprets? what's the box Hardie has (or doesn't have) tucked away? what arrangement was made in order to get her on the boat? what really was her role, and (more important) what was her motive, in the event that ends up with her trial for murder? But there was no twist, there were no answers, or at least no revelations and so the novel seemed, in the end, to be less than it appeared to be -- I had the feeling of its fizzling out. Maybe I was just reading it with the wrong expectations, looking for layers of plot where all we get are layers (but vague, insubstantail layers) of character. I appreciate that Grace herself is designed as a complex and unreliable narrator - but unreliability only really works as a technical device if we have some measures of the reality the narrator is distorting, and some sense of larger purpose, and I could not discern what that was in this case.

The book comes dripping with critical praise - full of terms like "engrossing," "subtle," "beautifully constructed," "harrowing," "enthralling," "tantalizing." Huh. Then there's this: "Every literate mom will love this book!" Not this one, I'm afraid.
  rmaitzen | Feb 7, 2014 |
Survival in its most basic form makes for a compelling story, but the discussion such a story creates can be just as absorbing. At least this is what our Monday Night Bookclub found when we met to discuss The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan.
Our opinions on the book’s protagonist Grace was somewhat consistent; smart, class conscious, self-absorbed, cunning and above all, a survivor. But we did vary on the power of the story.

Some found it gripping, convincing and well structured, while others thought it lacked intensity and a powerful climax. Sandra cared little for any of the castaways and felt nothing at their demise. Jean anticipated dramatic consequences that never transpired (much to her frustration!).
Mary was conscious that history is always told by the survivors and was skeptical of Grace’s story on how things unfolded on the lifeboat.
All these points took us into a fascinating discussion on the human psyche and the act of survival, with Cherie and Jean relating personally known experiences.
In the end, it was unanimously agreed that it is impossible to know how you would react in such a situation, and we all hope never to find out! ( )
  DaptoLibrary | Oct 21, 2013 |
I enjoyed the sense of foreboding and tension on the lifeboat as the days passed and the way the story was constructed so the "truth" is gradually revealed. Grace is an unreliable narrator, however, and there was a certain amount of unsolved mystery surrounding the events which took place. I didn't mind that, but I was disappointed with the ending. I don't think the characters were fully developed, and there were lots of them to remember. I also didn't quite 'get' the relationship between the three main women.I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second. Not a bad read, but I was a little disappointed when I finished, as it didn't quite live up to expectations. ( )
  shirleybell | Sep 26, 2013 |
It's 1914 and the world has just descended into war. In America, 22 year old Grace Winters is newly widowed and on trial for her life. As Grace recounts the events that occurred after she was placed in a lifeboat by her husband as a result of the sinking of the oceanliner, Empress Alexandra, she provides views on the thirty-nine individuals in the boat - not all of whom will survive.

I'm still not sure how I feel about this book. The main narrative itself is riveting in the way that most survival narratives are. Having a sense of where the narrative is going from beginning provides a slow sense of dread as Grace describes the days she spent in the lifeboat. But although she is the narrator of the novel and as a reader I experienced the entire story from her perspective, I never truly developed a sense of who Grace was. Is she as wilting and needy as she projects and often describes herself as or is she the strong woman who survives the deprivations of being stranded at sea while other characters die around her. In the end, I'm not sure Grace herself knows. An intriguing read but not one that rocked my world (or my boat). ( )
  MickyFine | Aug 28, 2013 |
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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.

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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:18 -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)

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