Review: The Lifeboat
The Lifeboat – Charlotte Rogan’s debut literary fiction novel – is a very thought provoking story about a young woman who finds herself stranded in a lifeboat with several others. Set in 1914, the sinking of the Titantic is still recent enough in everyone’s minds for the survivors to realise that escaping the sinking ship is only the beginning but here, instead of icy temperatures they have to contend with days lost at sea with seemingly little hope of being rescued. With little food or water and the weight of the passengers proving to be too much for the leaking vessel, what decisions must the survivors make and what alliances must they form in order to stay alive?
The Lifeboat focuses on Grace Winter, a 22 year old who becomes both a newly-wed and a widow within the space of a few days. Grace is not painted as a flowery, sweet character by any means – in fact, as the novel progresses it becomes clear that she can be frighteningly manipulative. Her main aim in life seems to be to achieve her own desires, regardless of the cost to others. Yet, it is this very behaviour that will offer her the best chance of survival aboard the lifeboat and you can’t help but find yourself wondering ‘Would I do the same?’.
This is a novel that focuses heavily on morality and, in particular, the suspension of accepted morality in order to survive. The fact that Grace seems particularly spoiled and self-centred adds an extra dimension when you are forced to accept that a selfless, caring attitude of others proves to be their undoing in some cases.
To say this is Charlotte Rogan’s debut novel, it is absolutely stunning. The quality of the writing is simply excellent and the story is beautifully narrated. Originally I had planned to rate this with four stars but the book has stayed with me for days and I can’t stop thinking about it. Therefore, given the quality of the writing, the fact that the story has a real simplicity but the range of emotions invoked is extremely complex and the effect the book has had on me both during my reading and since I finished it, I must give this five stars.