Ellie's Reviews > The Lifeboat

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
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Dec 12, 12

bookshelves: ebooks, historical, 2012, contemporary, thrillers, reviewed
Read from December 03 to 08, 2012

Set in 1914 at the beginning of the First World War, after the sinking of the Empress Alexandra a group of 39 people are left adrift in a lifeboat, built to hold far less, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean for 21 days. This tale is told retrospectively from the point of view of Grace Winter, a 22 year old newlywed, who manages to find a place on a lifeboat. But the lifeboat she's found herself on is overloaded and in danger of sinking, there isn't enough food and water for everyone on board, soon some of the passengers are discussing "volunteers" to go overboard. Some may need to die if the rest are to survive.

The Lifeboat is the debut novel of author Charlotte Rogan. It is a compelling, gripping and extremely thought-provoking tale. This novel tells the story of survival at its most basic level. It explores human nature and morality. It shows what happens to people while they are fighting to stay alive. The novel is a psychological thriller really. The book is very well-written. I really loved the author's writing style. I was completely engrossed in this novel from the very first page. The way in which Charlotte Rogan describes the moral decisions the characters have to make is quiet chilling. With everyone weak from hunger, in despair over their situation on the lifeboat, fearing they won't be rescued and they'll die out there, all the characters find their behaviour, beliefs and morals being tested to the limit. It's extremely terrifying. You can't help but finding yourself wondering "would I do the same in that situation?"

Grace was an unreliable narrator, which I thought added to the story by making it all the more shocking. Even by the end of the novel, I wasn't sure what to make of Grace. Was she as innocent as she appeared to be? Or was she frighteningly manipulative? In parts of the novel, Grace seems to be surprisingly honest in revealing her negative thoughts and feelings about the other passengers in the lifeboat, along with her worries about her husband's survival. You are left wondering if what Grace is telling you is the whole truth, deliberate lies, or the effects that shock, starvation and exhaustion are having on her mind. She's a very complicated character.

I'm sure we all hope we’d behave better if we were in a similar situation but this novel poses some interesting moral questions: if you're own survival was at stake, how far would you go to ensure you were the last one left standing?

I can't wait to read more from this author! Four stars!
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Dem (new)

Dem Looks like this would make a good bookclub read.


Ellie Oh it would! I might suggest it next month.


message 3: by Faith (last edited Mar 01, 2014 08:08AM) (new)

Faith Justice Thanks for the review. The plot puts me in mind of an old black and white movie that still haunts me where several survivors overload a lifeboat. They debate how to decide who will go overboard to save the rest and one by one people are left behind. It did raise all kinds of uncomfortable thoughts on how I might act in a similar situation. Using an unreliable narrator/survivor sounds like a nice twist.


Jane Carver I read the book too, and loved it. It reminded me of the movie "Lifeboat", I think it was a Hitchcock movie from the late 1930's or 1940's. There to you weren't quite sure who was telling the truth or not. I agree that this would be a great book club book, and wonder too what she will do for her next book. This one is going to be hard to top.


Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh Sounds like a terrific book, glad you rated it 4 stars.


Diane S. So glad you liked this one. Thought it would make a great book for discussions. personally thought Grace was manipulative and that she played her lawyer all the way. She was as guilty, I think, as the other two woman and got away completely free. And don't think her conscience bothered her.


message 7: by Jennifer (last edited Dec 12, 2012 03:07PM) (new)

Jennifer I agree. This does sound like it would make a good book club read. It kind of reminds me of The Case of The Speluncean Explorers,a philosophical writing by H.L.A. Hart, where a bunch of men went into a cave and they knew that inevitably some men would have to die because of lack of food. The men democratically decided that they would draw straws or roll a die and the person that lost would be killed and eaten so the other men could stay alive. The big dilemma was how the legal system should treat the surviving men.


message 8: by Cassie (new)

Cassie I got this on my kindle today for 4.99!


Shelly I picked it up for 3.99 on Barnes and Noble. I have been debating this book for so long.


Joanne Timmins Liked your review. Grace is both honest and a liar by omission, depending on circumstance. That she is very manipulative, not to say conniving, goes without saying. Her initial encounter with Henry is but one example. Her constant assessments of the power shifts in the lifeboat are another. She is a consummate survivalist in an era that was stacked against women.


Linda Smith Just finished this book and was having a difficult time putting my thoughts about Grace into words. Your description of her sums up my ambivalance about her perfectly. She is "a very complicated character" indeed.


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