The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
Unabridged, 7 hr. 47 min.
Rebecca Gibel (Narrator)
March 23, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Downloaded audio from my local library
“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.”
This is one of those novels that is reminiscent of the Titanic disaster, but isn’t about that event. The events that transpire might actually be worse (more dramatic) than the Titanic, if that is possible. It is a compelling story of survival that really makes you think what you would have done given the same situation.
As the title and description above indicate, the ship the passengers are traveling aboard encounters some disaster and the passengers have to disembark aboard lifeboats. These early events happen rather quickly at the beginning and you never get a complete sense as to what sort of disaster the ship encountered – I guess it didn’t matter for the passengers (who might not have really known what happened), but as the reader I wanted to know more. Set just 2 years after the Titanic’s fateful journey, it is reasonable that the characters, crossing the Atlantic, might have drawn parallels to the Titanic themselves. Once in the lifeboats, the deterioration of humanity as time passes and the situation worsens is extremely palpable and believable. It goes from a sense of not-so-bad, we will be saved, to udder desolation, panic, and the making of decisions that would never have happened under “normal” situations.
I thought the author did a wonderful job with the characters. Seeing their “real” selves come out as the situation worsens felt very believable. There were only a few small aspects of characterization that were a miss for me. The first was in Grace’s husband. I think I was supposed to care a lot more that Grace didn’t know if he was safe in another lifeboat or not; however, the author didn’t do enough in the few short passages early on where he was present to make me care at all about what happened to him. I also never had the sense that there were ever thirty people in the lifeboat. We only ever really hear about ten or so, so I had a hard time gauging how severe the situation was based on the overcrowding.
I couldn’t believe how the events that transpired became the fodder for a murder trial (this isn’t a spoiler, it comes out in the first few pages of the novel). A matter of life and death, loss of rationality, can lead to negative consequences. It was interesting seeing how Grace would navigate this tricky situation.
This was a novel that kept me on the edge of my seat and waiting the next time I could pick it back up.
The narrator was very effective at evoking the various characters, personalities, and emotionally charged conversations that ensued. Job well done.
This is author Charlotte Rogan’s debut novel. You can visit Rogan’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
You can also watch the author speak in a short video about the premise of the novel.
There was also a note on the author’s website that Anne Hathaway is set to produce and star in a movie adaptation on this novel – which I think would be pretty cool!
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