Ann Collette's Reviews > The Lifeboat

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
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Jun 24, 12

Read in June, 2012

This is a very dense, very internalized account of how one woman survives a shipwreck that happens right before the start of WWI. The book starts with the young protagonist, Grace Winter, on trial for murder, along with two other of the handful of eventual survivors, so there's never any question whether or not Grace will live through her ordeal. What is questionable is Grave's POV, which is calculating, very self serving, and very self-deceiving. She certainly isn't a likeable protagonist, though she does have a gift for surviving, whatever the situation. On the surface this is a well researched account of what it's like to survive in an overcrowded lifeboat on an open sea for 21 days. Beneath that, though, it's an exploration of morality and how it's one of the first things to go when people are forced to abandon all signs of civilized behavior in order to survive. Now that I've had a few days to think about the book, I realize I really hated Grace, but admired the author's gorgeous prose and willingness to tackle complex moral and ethical issues without any traces of false sentimentality or romanticism. Like her protagonist, though, I do think she fudged the crucial moment when Grace makes a fatal decision as to whose side she will take in a struggle for power while still on the lifeboat. Still, this is a rich and ambitious book, one that underlines the fact that none of us can be truly sure just how far we'll go to survive until our back is up against the wall (even if it's a figurative one of water).

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