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The Lifeboat Paperback – 29 Mar 2012

3.5 out of 5 stars 242 customer reviews

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Paperback, 29 Mar 2012
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (29 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844087530
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844087532
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 25.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (242 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,400,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


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

Book Description

THE LIFEBOAT is a daring and adventurous novel set just before the First World War. It begins in a courtroom, where an enigmatic young woman named Grace Sachs is on trial; in flashback, we learn why . . .

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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By Lovely Treez TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 Mar. 2012
Format: 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.
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