Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

review by Maryom

 Twenty-two year old Grace Winter is one of three women standing trial for their actions while adrift on a lifeboat, following the sinking of  the liner that was carrying her and her newly-wed husband home to America. At first the women appeared to be among the lucky ones to get a place in a boat but as the anticipated rescue doesn't arrive the occupants realise that not all of them will survive - how can you decide who will live and who die? From refusing to pick up other survivors to distributing the meagre rations to calling for volunteers to abandon the over-crowded, under-equipped lifeboat - where should one draw the line?

 The novel starts excellently - with Grace standing open-mouthed in the rain remembering doing the same in the lifeboat when desperate for every last drop of fresh water. I thought this really captured the changed attitude of someone who had lived through the dreadful ordeal of being adrift without food or water, and not knowing if they would survive.. Rogan also manages through Grace's diary to convey how the world appears to have shrunk to the limits of the lifeboat while at the same time the boat itself appears as only a speck on the ocean.

On this first reading though, I found myself a little disappointed by the unfolding of the story and its conclusion. Somehow I expected something more/different. Perhaps I read it rather too quickly - I was pulled along by the writing style and very much wanted to know what had happened to the survivors. But I found myself expecting a climax that never came. Yet having reached the end, I wonder if I'd misread the story. In the last few chapters, Grace came over as a far more manipulative person than I'd imagined her to be which casts a whole new light on events. Had I been taken in by Grace as so many within the story had? This is definitely a book I will re-read - I'm just not sure how easy it will be to reach a firm conclusion even then.

Publisher - Virago
Genre - Adult Fiction, Literary

Buy The Lifeboat from Amazon Maryom's review - 4 stars

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