The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

Summary from the publisher:
Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she’d found. Will she pay any price to keep it?

I’ve been vacillating over whether to write a review of this or not, because it’s been a long time since I’ve been so lukewarm about a book that everyone else seems to be raving about. I wanted to love it! I’ve been fascinated by shipwrecks since I was young and grew up at the height of Titanic mania (both the musical and the film came out while I was in middle school), so when I heard about this, I was sure this would be right up my street and was sad when it didn’t grab me like I’d hoped it would.

To be fair, I can see why people enjoy The Lifeboat, because it is well-written and grounded in the time period, and it’s a fascinating examination of human behavior. I found myself wondering what I would do if I found myself in a lifeboat filled past capacity and with no hope of imminent rescue. This was survival of the fittest at its most brutal, and for me, the truly successful parts of the book were when these genteel people finally cracked.

My problem was that I never connected with Grace, the narrator. I think it was the author’s intention for her to be slightly passive, as if she’d removed herself from events and put them firmly in the past so that she could continue to survive and move on, but that passivity kept me at a distance and prevented these fraught situations, both in the lifeboat and in the courtroom, from reaching their height. I can see how this will work for some, and there was a moment where Grace’s detachment was more chilling than frustrating, but overall, it left me cold.

This was an extremely quick read, so I don’t regret sticking with it, but I am glad to move on to the next book. If you like something that’s heavy on the psychology, though, this could very well be for you.


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