The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan(Little Brown)
The Lifeboat is an astonishingly well-written debut by Charlotte Rogan. The narrative opens with a bang, as we meet Grace Winter, on trial for her life, as she recounts the events of being on an overcrowded lifeboat for 21 days.
It is just after Franz Ferdinand is assassinated in Sarajevo, and Grace and her brand new husband Henry leave politically uncertain Europe for America to introduce Grace to her new mother-in-law.
The cruise-liner explodes and newly married Grace is newly widowed and “finds” herself on a lifeboat with 30 other (mostly female) passengers.
Grace’s calm, genteel telling of the events is in stark contrast with the horrors of which she speaks of.
From the very first, Mr. Hardie, a ship’s officer and leader of the lifeboat, makes hard decisions to protect those in his boat.
Factions are drawn, alliances made and mistrust and paranoia soon surfaces as the passengers realise not all of them will survive.
The writing is extremely subtle and a reader can easily miss the gentle hints from Rogan that first person storyteller, Grace, is not all she seems. One keeps on wondering what details she leaves out and often the reader must infer what is going on by the way the other characters behave towards our protagonist.
This makes the reading nuanced, clever and suspenseful. The book asks a lot of dark questions and I could only found dark answers.
Thus I found this a book to be unputdownable – not because of the action – of which there is little –but as an exploration of the self, the personality and what one would do to push those boundaries when one’s life depended on it.
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