Holly Weiss's Reviews > The Lifeboat

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
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Apr 02, 12

bookshelves: 2012-release, to-review
Read from April 01 to 02, 2012

Article originally published on www.blogcritics.com

Survival in a lifeboat may sound like a simple plot line, but it astounds in the hands of debut novelist, Charlotte Rogan. In The Lifeboat Grace Winter, age 22, sails from Europe to America with her new husband in order to meet her mother-in-law. After an explosion on luxury liner, the Empress Alexandra, Grace’s husband Henry secures her a place on a lifeboat. She survives three weeks in the overcrowded boat. Upon rescue, she finds herself on trial for murder—another form of survival.

No spoilers here. All of this information is in the prologue.

1914. Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Seaman John Hardie takes charge on Lifeboat 14. His maritime experience enables him to adjust to changes in their circumstances. It also gives him the grit to put a boot in the face of a lost soul trying to climb aboard the already dangerously full lifeboat. When he is not giving orders, he remains aloof or expounds on scientific maritime facts and lore.

In this tiny boat adrift in a boundless ocean, the author examines whether murder justifies survival. The owners of mother ship, the Empress Alexandra, saved money by building lifeboats to hold only eighty percent of their intended capacity. “Capacity 40 persons” says the plaque on Grace’s lifeboat now holding 39 people. Something or someone must give.

Told in the first person by Grace, the survivors’ ordeals and fates are reveled in a series of flashbacks. Lifeboat duties are assigned. Stories told to pass the time become untruths as people “whisper down the lane.” We learn Grace’s constantly changing opinions of other passengers and assessment of their fate. She fills in back story about her relationship with Henry. She is “in the middle of a nothingness that was everything, or everything that mattered.” Conditions worsen. Camaraderie veers toward suspicion. Surprising rivalries and alliances develop. Deprivation and emotional decay further weaken any hope for the survivors.

We learn early on that Grace has been married for ten weeks. Did Henry pay for her inclusion in the rescue? What does she know of her husband’s fate? Can Grace come through this experience with her innate belief in man’s goodness intact?

A Princeton graduate, author Charlotte Rogan lives in Westport, Connecticut. She spent her childhood surrounded by sailors. In the book’s trailer, Rogan relates her interest in writing the story was perked upon perusing old legal texts. There she found the story of two drowning soldiers floating on a plank that can only support one. The case examined whether or not it was murder for one to push the other off if the plank would only hold one man.
The Lifeboat, published by Little, Brown and Company has just been released and is being translated into eighteen languages. It is shortlisted for the Amazon Rising Stars webpage.

The Lifeboat, Rogan’s rich debut novel, interlaces many layers of petty jealousies, shrouded motives, moral dilemmas, and psychological complexities. What are the boundaries of human civility? How humane are we when pushed to the brink?

Little, Brown and Company graciously supplied the review copy for my unbiased opinion.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Jane (new) - added it

Jane Sounds intriguing. Added to Mount Virtual TBR.


Holly Weiss Jane wrote: "Sounds intriguing. Added to Mount Virtual TBR."

I know the feeling.


message 3: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim Serediak Sounds like it would be a great pick for my next book club choice ! Plenty to discuss and debate, I assume!


Holly Weiss Yes, great discussion material!


Lisa Potts I just finished this book yesterday and it is truly one of the best books I have ever read, and I read alot - at least 4 books a month! And I even said to a friend after reading it - "It was astounding" - as you used the same word in your review. I cannot say enough good things about this book, it is so well written and flows so effortlessly, just a fantastic read from beginning to end.


Holly Weiss Lisa wrote: "I just finished this book yesterday and it is truly one of the best books I have ever read, and I read alot - at least 4 books a month! And I even said to a friend after reading it - "It was astoun..."

I had to read it to do a review for a publicist. Sometimes those are chores, but this one was pure delight!


Freddie Bates Great review. I contacted Charlotte after audio reading the book and she replied. Loved the snatches of prose throughout, just like little i lifelines scattered on purpose.


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