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The Lifeboat: A Novel Hardcover – April 3, 2012
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"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 and worked for a large construction firm before turning to fiction. She is the author of The Lifeboat, which was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and which has been translated into twenty-six languages. After many years in Dallas and a year in Johannesburg, she now lives in Westport, Connecticut.
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So here we have 39 people jockeying for a place on a lifeboat not made to fit them all. A seaman named Hardie takes control of one of the boats and is a natural leader though cold and hard. He controls everything that happens on the boat as it flounders at sea waiting for days and then weeks for a rescue ship that never comes. The survivors eat the fish he spears, the birds that fall from the sky into the ship and find themselves not unlike animals. "The nights were cold, and the more emaciated we became, the less our bodies worked to keep us warm. When I looked at the others, I was shocked to notice their sunken eyes and hollow cheeks...and I knew we had all retreated into memory in order to escape the harsh realities of our plight."
Fear was their constant companion. Along with fear, their true natures were coming out. "The bare bones of our natures were showing. None of us was worth a spit. 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." The gray areas of morality were very clear. Nothing was black or white. One thing that was clear though was that "I looked around and realized that we were all predators and that we always had been."
Grace is the protagonist of the story and the narrator. However, we don't know how accurate her rendition of events actually is. She keeps her cards close. We do know that she tried to take advantage of things in her life prior to finding herself in this boat. We know that she chose her husband after reading an article in the social pages of her newspaper, knowing he was rich and a good catch. Stealing him didn't phase her, and stealing it was. He was engaged to be married shortly to a woman he'd known most of his life.
In the prologue we find out that Grace and two other women on the boat are in jail awaiting trial for their lives, that Grace's husband is dead, and that her lawyer wants her to write a narrative of her time at sea. This narrative is the book we read. They are on trial for throwing others overboard to save their own lives. How can we believe Grace's tale completely for she is of shaky moral grounding. Couldn't this narrative be written to put her in a good light and make others look bad.
The book reminded me a bit of William Golding's `Lord of the Flies', where a group of boys find themselves stranded on an island and make a government for themselves that subsequently implodes. On the rescue ship, the leadership of Hardie is questioned and after a while two women, Hannah and Mrs. Grant try a coup. Things go from bad to worse. I was also reminded of the great painting by Gericault, The Raft of the Medusa. According to Wikipedia, it depicts the aftermath of a shipwreck where those who survived endured starvation, dehydration, cannibalism and madness.
This is a very readable book, a page-turner, grabbing the reader from page one. It is a book about morality, about the decisions we must make when in dire circumstances and what happens to people when they are placed in life-threatening situations. It is a book about choices and opportunities, faith and fatality. How close is a human being to an animal when placed in a dire situation? The author, Charlotte Rogan is a fine writer with a wonderful grasp of philosophy and psychology. You would never know that this was her first novel.
Well, someone decided to make that into a book.
I saw great reviews and had high hopes even though the topic seemed sort of trite.
I wish I hadn't wasted my time.
It was ok though. Just predictable and so a bit annoying.
For those who would like an outstanding book of a real life story of a forty-seven day survival in a small life raft in the Pacific Ocean I recommend Laura Hillenbrand's "Unbroken", which in my mind is a "Five Star" book.
This book is a challenging candidate for a very energetic and thoughtful book club. It is clearly a woman's book as the responsibilities of the women passengers are put to and through the many tests of action, and reaction of the mindsets of 1914.
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If you enjoy novels that refuse to serve up easy answers to some of the most profound questions at the core of human...Read more