Elizabeth's Reviews > The Lifeboat

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
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's review
Apr 29, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012
Recommended for: people who slow down to gawk at car accidents

The title sets the stage for this book. It's 1914 and we're in the Atlantic on the elegant ocean liner, Empress Alexandra, and it goes down a la Titanic style. We have 39 people in the lifeboat whose story we will follow. The story is told by Grace, 22, a survivor who is on trial for events that happen on the lifeboat. She recounts the struggle of the boat, the trial and how she came to be on the ship in the first place.

The lifeboat turns into harrowing pretty quickly. Pile on the social conventions of that time, the staunch separation between men and women and ingrained class structure and you have an intriguing tale on multiple levels. Grace, our narrator, is young, smart and deceptive. I didn't like her too much, I have to say, but I admired her ability to survive and report the events in an intuitive way. She's just cunning and manipulative enough to be quite the Slippery Sue.

There's a lot going on here, all of it exciting. As we follow the struggle within the lifeboat, as the days and nights start to buildup, it's amazing the different ways people start to disintegrate both physically and mentally. We're front stage for all of it.

"...that life is a relentless sliding down, that eventually everyone finds himself in water up to his neck, and that the ability to have such realizations is what distinguishes men from beasts"

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