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The Lifeboat: A Novel Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; 1 edition (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316185906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316185905
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (375 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Charlotte Rogan uses a deceptively simply narrative of shipwreck and survival to explore our all-too-human capacity for self-deception."—J. M. Coetzee

"The Lifeboat traps the reader in a story that is exciting at the literal level and brutally moving at the existential: I read it in one go."—Emma Donoghue, author of Room

"What a splendid book. . . . I can't imagine any reader who looks at the opening pages wanting to put the book down. . . . It's so refreshing to read a book that is ambitious and yet not tricksy, where the author seems to be in command of her material and really on top of her game. It's beautifully controlled and totally believable."—Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall

"The Lifeboat is a spellbinding and beautifully written novel, one that will keep readers turning pages late into the night. This is storytelling at its best, and I was completely absorbed from beginning to end."—Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried, In the Lake of the Woods, July, July

"The Lifeboat is a richly rewarding novel, psychologically acute and morally complex. It can and should be read on many levels, but it is first and foremost a harrowing tale of survival. And what an irresistible tale it is; terrifying, intense, and, like the ocean in which the shipwrecked characters are cast adrift, profound."—Valerie Martin, author of Property and The Confessions of Edward Day

About the Author

Charlotte Rogan studied architecture at Princeton University, graduating in 1975. She lives in Westport, Connecticut. This is her first novel.

More About the Author

Charlotte Rogan graduated from Princeton University in 1975. She worked at various jobs, mostly in the fields of architecture and engineering, before teaching herself to write and staying home to bring up triplets. Her childhood experiences among a family of sailors and the discovery of an old criminal law text provided inspiration for The Lifeboat, her first novel. After many years in Dallas and a year in Johannesburg, she and her husband now live in Connecticut. The Lifeboat is being translated into 25 languages.

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Customer Reviews

The main character narrated the book but her character was never fully developed.
Pattie Whitlock
This is a real page turner of a book, but don't read this while contemplating a day out boating, or a cruise!
Kiwiflora
I found the book to be very slow and, like some other readers, relatively pointless.
Jessie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

131 of 148 people found the following review helpful By JLF on April 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
While I had hoped for a more intense story about the dynamics of people unknown to each other being placed in peril on a lifeboat, this turned out to be a strangely dispassionate narrative from only one person's perspective. Because that person was selfishly passive about her circumstances, and so easily manipulated if she thought there was something in it for her, we learn almost nothing about the other passengers. Everything is filtered through Grace's shifting perceptions. Grace is a seriously flawed person, and that usually offers literary opportunity for growth. But Grace's flaws were with her before the lifeboat, remained with her throughout the time on the sea, and her trial, and she came out the other side essentially unchanged. There is a lot of discussion of the ethics and morality of lifeboat survival, mixed with strong undercurrents of the gender politics of a century ago. None of this gave life to any of the characters and I found no one to root for or have any serious curiousity about. There were many loose ends left unresolved, showing them to be no more than red herrings and filler. The book ended with a shrug.
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129 of 149 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Clear the decks and call in sick; once you begin reading this riveting this debut book, it's going to be hard to come up for air.

The narrator, aptly named Grace, appears on the first pages and right away, we know a few important plot points. We know that Grace survived on a lifeboat after her ship - like the Titanic two years prior - goes down. We also know that she is now on trial for a murder that took place during the ensuing ordeal. But here's what we don't know: how reliable is Grace as the tale-teller? Is she coldly capable of taking whatever actions are necessary to survive? Or is she simply a shell-shocked bystander, susceptible to the slightest suggestion?

In flashbacks, we learn about the harsh reality of lifeboat passenger survival, under the direction of one of the sea fellows named Hardie. The name is likely no accident: like Thomas Hardy's characters, Hardie and the rest of the survivors are overwhelmingly and overpoweringly in the grip of fate and chance. "None of us are worth a spit," Grace ruminates. "We were stripped of all decency. I couldn't see that there was anything good or noble left once food and shelter were taken away."

Indeed, as the characters are forced to endure worse and worse conditions - decreasing rations of food and water, the unexpected squall, the weakening of body and spirit, the emotional horrors of wondering about loved ones - they also form alliances that are crucial in determining who will live and who will die. It quickly becomes evident that some must be sacrificed for the majority to live since the lifeboat bears more people than it can safely carry.

There is an elegiac overlay in this tale: Hardie is at first regarded as all-knowing and godlike.
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
For the most part, Charlotte Rogan's The Lifeboat is much like any many other books and films (Hitchcock's Lifeboat inevitably comes to mind) that deal with the desperate lengths people living in close quarters will be driven to in order to survive a catastrophic event, as well as exploring how different characters and personalities react when pushed to and beyond their limits of endurance. The vast majority of Rogan's novel explores the dynamic between what initially starts out as 39 people over the course of three weeks on the high seas following the sinking of their transatlantic liner, the Empress Alexandra, in 1914. What introduces an element of suspense and opens a wider context on events however is the fact that the narrator, Grace Winter, is writing her account in preparation for a court case, so we know that there are survivors from the wreck, but also that some serious drama has occurred over these three weeks that needs to be accounted for in a court of law.

That's a good enough hook, and Rogan's writing is strong and vivid in its account of the struggle for survival, the conditions on the over-populated lifeboat, and of the tensions and psychological states of those on board, and the conflict that inevitably ensues. The Lifeboat then is a story about survival, but the question of how to survive extends beyond the three weeks at sea, and the novel has other ambitions and implications that relate to the period - the First World War has just broken out - as well as to the roles assigned to men and women, how they are expected to behave and how, when pushed to a crisis, those roles are about to change.
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43 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Ethan on May 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In The Lifeboat, author Charlotte Rogan explores the actions of a group of people who are forced to survive on a small lifeboat and the repercussions of this event. The premise seems simple enough, but in the dexterous hands of Rogan, the story takes on a larger life that invites readers to join in on this fascinating journey.

The year is 1914, and newly wed Grace is traveling with her husband, Henry, across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the luxurious ocean liner, The Empress Alexandra. After a sudden explosion, the passengers frantically evacuate the sinking ship, doing whatever it takes to secure a spot in a lifeboat. As Lifeboat 14 begins its descent into the ocean, it stops just long enough for Henry to put Grace and seaman John Hardie onto the boat. Hardie, who clearly has the most experience with all things nautical, takes lead of the small boat, navigating through the debris, and coldly passing other passengers who struggle to stay afloat in the sea. Hardie is the only one aboard the lifeboat who understands that the small vessel is already overcrowded and to take in even one more passenger would be suicide.

As the days pass, the passengers all follow the lead of Hardie, who has assigned tasks for each of the evacuees. They all seem to believe that despite their misfortune, help will arrive soon. After several days, the solitude of the sea begins to take its toll on the passengers. Hunger and thirst muddy their minds, a looming storm threatens to sink their boat, and different opinions threaten to tear apart the unified effort of the passengers.

The novel is told from the point of view of Grace who is writing a journal of her time on the lifeboat. We learn, through many flashbacks, that Grace is currently on trial for murder.
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