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78 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lifeboat
Two years after the loss of Titanic, and just after the outbreak of WWI, the ocean liner Empress Alexandra sinks. There is an explosion and a fire on board, leading to panic and the launching of just over half the available lifeboats. Grace Winter, newly married to Henry, is placed by her husband aboard Lifeboat 14, one of the last to get away safely. At first, it...
Published on 31 Mar 2012 by S Riaz

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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacking what would have made it brilliant
This is such a good premise for a book. A ship sinks following a fire on board, and 39 disparate passengers find themselves squashed on board a lifeboat clearly not suitable for holding that many people. From the very first pages, the people on the lifeboat find themselves facing acute moral dilemmas. Do they help the desperate people in the sea, thereby threatening their...
Published on 13 Jun 2012 by Love Books


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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacking what would have made it brilliant, 13 Jun 2012
By 
Love Books "Jessie" (Durham, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lifeboat (Hardcover)
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This is such a good premise for a book. A ship sinks following a fire on board, and 39 disparate passengers find themselves squashed on board a lifeboat clearly not suitable for holding that many people. From the very first pages, the people on the lifeboat find themselves facing acute moral dilemmas. Do they help the desperate people in the sea, thereby threatening their own survival and the meagre supplies of food and water on the lifeboat? Or do they beat them away with the oars?

I don't know what I'd do in that situation, but this book certainly makes you think. The story is told through the eyes of a young bride, now widow, Grace, one of those on the lifeboat. We know she survived because, at the beginning, she is facing trial in her home country of America along with two other passengers, for murder. You have to read the book to find out how, and why, Grace came to be where she is.

This is an 'unputdownable' book. I raced to the end to find out what had happened but... I feel it is not as good as it should be. Plenty of hints are dropped about what might have caused the explosion that sank the ship in the first place, including dodgy dealings and the potential involvement of Grace's husband, but this storyline is never made clear, which is frustrating. And because none of the passengers in the lifeboat is particularly likeable, it is hard to empathise with them. It's almost a brilliant book. It has all the right ingredients, but the result is not nearly as good as it could have been.
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78 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lifeboat, 31 Mar 2012
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lifeboat (Kindle Edition)
Two years after the loss of Titanic, and just after the outbreak of WWI, the ocean liner Empress Alexandra sinks. There is an explosion and a fire on board, leading to panic and the launching of just over half the available lifeboats. Grace Winter, newly married to Henry, is placed by her husband aboard Lifeboat 14, one of the last to get away safely. At first, it seems as though their only problem is to get the lifeboat as far away from the ship as possible. However, having escaped the initial danger, those on board - thirty nine in all, including thirty one women and one child - have to face the harsh reality that the rescue they are awaiting may not be coming.

When we meet Grace, a most resourceful and realistic heroine, she is in prison on trial for her life. Her lawyers suggest she try to recreate the events of those twenty one days after the ship went down, and her diary is what we read, as the story of what happened and why she is on trial unfolds. This is an excellent, atmospheric and well written novel, which draws you in and refuses to let you stop reading. Grace tells her story simply and well, feeling no doubt in her actions, although we readers are often unsure she should be so certain of her belief. In fact, Grace's status seems as unreliable and shifting as the sea the boat floats precariously on.

As Grace narrates her story, she says, "the bare bones of our natures were showing," and it is hard to disagree with her. Yet, it is also impossible to judge how people could, or would, react in such a desperate situation. Certainly, the situation in the Lifeboat leads to those on board exhibiting the best and worst that humanity has to offer - from disagreements, discord and jealousy to self sacrifice. If this novel does not win awards, I will be stunned. This is an excellent book and would be ideal for a reading group looking for an intelligent and thought provoking novel to discuss.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring, 26 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Lifeboat (Kindle Edition)
Thank god for electronic download, otherwise this book would have been a waste of paper as well as my time! It's total dribble. This book confirms to me why nine out of ten books that I read are non fiction. The characters were shallow to the point that you do not relate to any of them while reading the book. There are no twists or turns in it. Just boring. I don't like giving bad reviews as I couldn't write a book myself, but if I tried I think it would turn out very much like this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "That Henry was already engaged seemed only the mildest of impediments...", 23 July 2014
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Lifeboat (Paperback)
As Europe is on the cusp of being ravaged by World War One, a young woman and her new husband, Grace and Henry Winter, are caught up in the sinking of the ship Empress Alexandra, on it’s way to the safety of the USA. Henry scrambles his wife into one of the first lifeboats to be launched and into the care of Hardie, an able seaman, who takes charge and organises the boat and distributes the food and water – though this is mainly hardtack biscuits.

And so begins the long stretches of time where they wait to be rescued. At first they stay near to the scene of the wreckage but eventually they put to the open water. There is an occasional glimpse of another lifeboat and although hunger is the worst of their troubles, they manage to catch fish occasionally. Disorientation sets in, however, when the food is all eaten and the water drunk. There is the occasional rainfall, which they manage to harness, but the worst of it is the formation of factions among the shipwrecked passengers and the break-out of covert hostilities.

These eventually erupt and Hardie is the focus of the dissatisfactions. The later parts of the novel deal with their eventual rescue by a fishing trawler. But what will happen when they are berthed in New York? Who will shoulder the blame for the sometimes savage acts carried out? This is not a “let’s eat the cabin boy” sort of novel and some of the passengers are extraordinarily brave. There is a suspicion that the lifeboat they sometimes glimpse in the distance is carrying some sort of bullion, and another mystery in the shape of a small box carried in secretively by Hardie, but we never find out what happens to the other boat and its passengers. Still, it’s a hell of a story and it is told very well. I don't mind the things we don't find out about the secrets of the passengers as sometimes it is rather that the paranoia that strikes under such extreme cricumstances changes the way people think, and that, to me, was something understandable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's a Deeper Ocean than the Sea, 2 April 2014
This review is from: The Lifeboat (Hardcover)
I thought The Lifeboat was a very multi-layered book, and it's easy to see why it has received so many mixed reviews.

The account is told through the recollections of the only `main' character in the book; Grace Winter, as she compiles a `diary' to be used as evidence in a court, which recounts her version of events aboard `The Lifeboat'.

This is not an action packed book. What we witness are `mere' glimpses into pieces of a puzzle that make up a much larger story, and as such it felt more like a short fiction flash than a full novel (I mean that in a good way).

If you're a reader that likes to chase after trails in your mind without ever being given a definitive answer, then you may like this book.

For me personally there is something much deeper here than the literal events, and I felt the story was predominantly about the main characters battle with her own endless ocean (her mind) and her own disappointment with life and almost everybody in it. Depending on your point of view, Grace is a character that is somewhere between repulsive and irrevocably `enlightened' - a spectrum on which neither end is particularly appealing, but your enjoyment of this book will depend on whether you `appreciate' that or are completely alien to it as a concept.

I'd say it's worth a read regardless, and there's a lot of hidden layers in there (Man v Women; Strength v Weakness; Hope v Acceptance etc), but this is definitely not one for everyone.

In the emptiness of the endless Blue, you'll find that you - and this book - are only as good as your mind...
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Lifeboat, 22 Nov 2012
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This review is from: The Lifeboat (Hardcover)
I had to read this book for my book club. I found it dreary. Too many story lines were left unfinished. Characters not well developed. I wouldn't have finished the book if it wasn't for the book group. Opinion was divided in the group but most found it an unsatisfactory read.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Totally unimpressed, 4 May 2012
By 
JM (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lifeboat (Hardcover)
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Like a few other reviewers, having now read 'The Lifeboat', I wonder what all the hype is about. I liked the sound of it and almost bought it, but then was offered a copy by Amazon for review, and am very glad I didn't have to pay for it.
I recently read a wonderful book about the sinking of the Titanic ('Women and Children First' by Gill Paul), and thought this might be a good one to continue the theme. Unfortunately though, 'The Lifeboat' was a huge disappointment. I imagined that in the confines of the boat the reader would find strong characterisation would contribute to a tight plot. However the characters were never developed, in fact having just finished this book I struggle to remember any of them with any clarity, they were all just cardboard cutouts and it was difficult to recall one from another.
I plodded on and on through the book expecting something great to happen that would make me see what all the 5 star reviewers saw. After struggling reluctantly to the bitter end with no improvement, I had assumed an amazing revealation would come about in the last few pages, but alas no. In fact I read the last sentence at the bottom of a page, turned over to continue and found that was it, it had finished.
I don't like giving negative reviews but I'm afraid I could find nothing good to report on this book, I found it boring throughout and regret wasting several precious hours reading it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Women and Children First?, 29 Mar 2012
By 
Lovely Treez (Belfast, N Ireland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Lifeboat (Hardcover)
The Lifeboat is another choice from Waterstones Eleven, eleven debut novels which they have earmaked for commercial success and critical acclaim in 2012. This is my fourth read from the selection and yet another one which I thoroughly enjoyed, even on a par with The Snow Child which is high praise indeed.

Set in 1914, most of the action, or should that read "inaction", takes place on a lifeboat stranded in the Atlantic Ocean following the sinking of the Empress Alexandra five days after her depature from Liverpool. Our narrator, newly wed Grace Winter, has written an account of her experiences during three long and exhausting weeks spent aboard the overladen vessel - an account which could once more mean the difference between life and death for her as she now stands trial for murder. Some of her fellow passengers didn't survive - some jumped and some may have been pushed but Grace's involvement is rather unclear and she isn't the most reliable of narrators. What is crystal clear though is that the reader will question what he or she would do in a similar situation, how far would we go to survive?

This is one of those novels you will want all your friends to read so you can discuss it afterwards and share your views. Underneath the deceptively simple prose lies a multilayered entity which sucks in the reader from the opening pages. Grace is an interesting character, flawed and human but does her devious streak extend to murder? Lifeboat No 14 is predominantly female with 30 women, 8 men and 1 child and half of the men end up perishing in the ocean. The whole power struggle between Hardie (the ship's crewman) and Mrs Grant mirrors women's struggle for emancipation and Grace tries her best to steer a middle course between the two. However when they're back on terra firma facing a murder accusation, it's back to normality, to a male dominated society so everything changes.

Charlotte Rogan wrote the first draft of The Lifeboat 10 years ago and she has been writing whilst raising triplets so she has had little in the way of spare time. I, for one, am glad that she decided to revisit this novel and set it loose on us readers - grab your lifejackets or at least have plenty of snacks to sustain you as you will be enthralled by this compelling debut
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric debut novel that will stay with you, 29 Mar 2012
By 
Kate (Oxford, Oxon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Lifeboat (Hardcover)
As we approach the centenary of the tragedy of the Titanic's sinking, there is something rather pertinent and moving about Charlotte Rogan's The Lifeboat - a novel which presents the story of a group of mostly women and some men who are shipwrecked in a small vessel in 1914 and are adrift. Despite the prayers of a clergyman on board, it is clear that this lifeboat sails out of sight of God. In particular, the novel focuses on the young Grace Winter who, married just ten weeks before the telling of the novel takes place, has been a widow for six. As the novel begins, Grace and her fellow survivors Mrs Grant and Hannah are on trial for their lives, accused of a murder.

The story is told to us here by Grace herself and she is no ordinary witness. She is also a major contributing factor to the success of The Lifeboat as a novel and as a mystery. Grace may be our eyes for the events in the lifeboat but she is also a woman with a vehement desire to survive and while we empathise and feel for her as she recounts those long days lost and barely alive in the boat, we're fully aware that Grace may be off the boat but her life is still in danger. Her words are intended to save it.

The narrative moves between the days and nights on the lifeboat, events before the disaster that led to it and the aftermath of their rescue. We hear about Grace's marriage to the wealthy young heir Henry, her deliverance to the lifeboat even though it was full, her devotion for Mr Hardie, the crewman on board the lifeboat who takes charge of their survival, the women who mourn their lost husbands and children and cling on to sanity while sipping saltwater and chewing dried seagull flesh. Then there are the outnumbered men.

There are several reasons to savour The Lifeboat, not least the voice of Grace. Our ambivalence towards her is tempered by our sympathy for her extraordinary and desperate circumstances. Through her we experience other strong survivors, especially Mrs Grant and Hannah, as well as the suffering of some of the weaker individuals in the lifeboat, not all of whom survive. Then there is the sea itself. Matched by a stunning cover, The Lifeboat gives us the sea as a character in itself, populated by scarce fish and seabirds plus its ill, damaged and increasingly insane human victims.

Despite the confines of the boat, The Lifeboat is never dull and despite its tragic subject, it is not without humour. The suffering is accompanied by multiplying Chinese whispers about thefts onboard the liner, rumours about what survivors may be concealing, the reason for Grace's appearance on the overfull boat and the terrible sight of the abandoned, drowning men and women in the cold seas. Grace is indeed a born survivor and listening to her tell her story, you hang on to every word. It is at times a harrowing tale indeed.

The Lifeboat is Charlotte Rogan's debut novel. It is also one of Waterstones 11 along with the superb The Snow Child. It is most certainly worth your attention. I'm going to remember it for quite a while. This review is from a review copy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing and gripping read, 6 Feb 2013
By 
Macey89 - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lifeboat (Paperback)
Disturbing, intense and claustrophobic, Charlotte Rogan's The Lifeboat follows the lives of 39 passengers following the sinking of an ocean liner in 1914. Adrift in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with the possibility of rescue looking less and less likely, the lifeboat is dangerously over-full and provisions increasingly scarce. Thrown together in the confined space of the boat, the passengers face moral dilemmas and difficult decisions in their struggle for survival. Newly formed relationships are pushed to the limit as personalities clash and the survivors' battle to take control of their surroundings. The Lifeboat tackles the darkest places of the human psyche and also reminds us of the wild and brutal potential of the natural world.

The novel is told through the words of 22-year-old Grace Winter, who came on board the doomed ship with her new husband, Henry, and was left widowed after the accident. However, throughout the book, we start to suspect that Grace may not be a very reliable source. Her narrative tone becomes increasingly distant and dispassionate, and the truth behind events is thrown into question.

As we follow the passengers from their perilous situation on the open seas to the trials of the courtroom on their eventual return, Charlotte Rogan tackles potentially contentious issues as she challenges everything from religious belief to inequality in gender roles. I really enjoyed this book, I raced through it and had to stop myself from reading ahead to the end. Some people have commented that it's hard to sympathise with the characters, but I thought this just added to the overall tone of the novel. The author deliberately doesn't write characters that are likeable. Instead, she uses the passengers of the lifeboat to explore the depths of human nature and personalities, both good and bad, as well as the lengths we will go to survive. It's impossible to imagine how we ourselves would react if we were forced into the same situation and you can't help but put yourself in their place. It's a gripping, and thought-provoking read, and although admittedly it did make for slightly uncomfortable reading I'd definitely recommend it.
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The Lifeboat
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (Hardcover - 29 Mar 2012)
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