AJ Conroy's Reviews > The Lifeboat

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
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's review
Dec 19, 2012

bookshelves: to-read, library-has-copy

NPR Review: Ever since I saw Tallulah Bankhead looking like her glamorous self while lost at sea in the 1944 film Lifeboat, I've been a sucker for survival stories. And this book by Charlotte Rogan is a satisfying one. Most of the action takes place aboard a lifeboat after a luxury ship quite like the Titanic goes down at sea. Grace Winter, a young woman who is on trial for an unspecified crime that occurred aboard the lifeboat, is writing down her version of the story for her lawyer. In her narrative, one of the ship's sailors takes control of the small vessel and enforces his own brand of brutal but effective leadership. Factions for and against him quickly develop.

Gradually we come to understand that Grace is quite beautiful and more than a little manipulative. And since the story is told completely from her point of view, it's never quite clear whether she is telling the whole truth. Villains and heroes, good and bad get twisted out of shape as the survivors fight with each other and against the looming threat of death. Rogan cleverly sets up a plot that questions whether right and wrong are values that can be tossed overboard like so much ballast when one's life is at stake. In the end she leaves much to the reader's imagination, allowing us to make the final judgment on what really happened.
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