James Anderson's Reviews > The Lifeboat

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
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Feb 04, 13

Read in February, 2013

A page-turner, but maybe not as Charlotte Rogan intended.
Who wouldn’t begin this with high hopes? A ship has just sunk in mid-ocean, a desperate and disparate group have made it to a now overloaded lifeboat, and one of the women who survived, our first person narrator, has been charged with… something. It has potential.
My problem was that I wasn’t gripped. Couldn’t get gripped.
It soon felt like this narrator was keeping something back, then a lot back… Grace Winter giving a partial account for the lawyers and her own ultimate benefit? OK. But that something kept back amounted to convincing detail, feelings, emotions, sensations, smells and general realistic-seeming sense impressions… it never felt like a convincing account by someone who had really spent these three weeks in a boat, deprived of food, water, and seeing others die around them. Was this from our Grace being a deliberate, careful and purposefully unreliable narrator? Or was it a failure by the author to fully imagine the scenes she was writing? That the images were not really… not really… formed in her head, and so could never be in our first person narrator’s head, and so certainly never reach ours? I increasing felt the latter.
Eventually I left a paragraph unread, not minding that much if I missed the next snippet of pre-sinking information. Or current in-the-boat events. Then I skipped a page. Then I flicked a bit. Then I went to the pure courtroom scenes. My interest did not revive. I was unconvinced.
But as well as being unconvinced there was the problem of the endless telling. So little showing, so much telling. If I turn the page feeling I've seen something then the question of conviction does not even arise. But time after time the 'showing', that basic element of storytelling, was absent. Page after page of just 'telling' were in their place.
Unlike Kate Saunders I did not find it ‘Almost unbearable exciting.’ I didn’t ‘Gulp it down at one sitting.’ Instead I let this little boat of narrative drift off across the ocean of so-so OK-but-nothing-special books and didn’t care.


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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Julia Kurzeja totally agree, a shallow unengaging read


James Anderson But so well promoted.


Caterina agreed. did the same thing with paragraphs, then pages, then chapters... just could not bring myself to care about anyone in this story. moving on...


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