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on 31 October 2017
I am puzzled as to why this book is not receiving better customer reviews. It was indeed given a Kirkus Reviews starred rating. I wonder if the not-very serious cover design - and the main character being a newlywed - makes it seem like a different type of book for a different audience? It goes back and forth between a first-person narrative aboard a lifeboat and a courtroom drama, set in 1914. This book, though written earlier, reminded me of His Bloody Project, which I also loved. This book has themes of faith, fate, survival, and one's purpose in life, and an interesting side story about a psychotherapist. There is also something of an "unreliable narrator" aspect to it as the characters go through a harrowing mental and physical journey, losing their sense of reality. I don't think the point is for the characters to have depth, as other reviewers have said, the point is to learn about the inner life of the narrator throughout her experience. As for the complaint that there are too many loose ends not resolved, that mirrors another elegant theme in this book, that many of life's mysteries do not have answers.
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on 29 June 2017
This book takes place in a lifeboat (obviously) launched after an ocean liner sinks in the Atlantic Ocean in 1914. The anticipated quick rescue doesn't take place, and as starvation and dehydration sets in, things start to go from bad to worse.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Grace Winter who is an ambivalent narrator, at best. It was an interesting microcosm of human society and the strong will to survive, but I think the MC was a psychopath.
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on 2 January 2013
The cover is breathtaking, I must have stared at it for ages before actually opening the book. Another thing I quite liked about the cover is that it hinted at what the story would be about, and the cover gave out so many emotions with it: eeriness, loneliness struggle - and this just added to my eagerness to read it.

Set at the start of the First World War, he story opens with 22 year old Grace Winters having lunch with her lawyers, we quickly learn that she is currently standing trial for events that happened during three weeks in a lifeboat after the Empress Alexandra, a liner on the way from Europe to New York, sinks in the middle of the ocean. The lawyers encourage Grace to write a diary of what went on during those weeks out at sea, and what follows next is Grace's account of her time in the lifeboat.

Wow. That is how I would sum up this book - Wow! This is one of the most thought-provoking books I have read this year, and it is fascinating! From Grace's first words, all the way through until the very end, I was gripped. I could not put this book down, and even when I had to stop reading to cook the dinner my mind was buzzing with so many questions! Would they be rescued shortly after? With 39 people in one tiny boat, what would happen? Would there be disagreements? Mutiny? What would they do for food? Would all of them get out alive? Or would a few be lost along the way?

This book would be PERFECT for book clubs, reading groups, reading with your friends, because as soon as you have finished the book you will definitely want someone to discuss it with! There are so many parts where opinions will be divided or scenes that are so thought-provoking and trust me, you will need to talk to someone about this book!

I particularly loved that the book was written in a diary form, it made me feel so much more involved with what was happening. It reminded me very much of Celia Rees "Witch Child", which is also written in a diary style (and if you haven't read it then I really would recommend that also!). The writing style really helped me connect emotionally with Grace, I felt I understood her better as I had an insight into her personal thoughts and feelings, and I must admit I liked her from the start. Even throughout the story, there are a few moments where perhaps Grace's choices and motives could be questioned, but even so I liked her for who she was. To me, she represented a real woman in a real situation who was trying to make the best of what she had, and overall, she just wanted to survive.

The characters are really what makes this book so fantastic. The story is literally set within the lifeboat for most of the book, but don't let that put you off at all! The characters more than make up for it, as we learn about each characters actions and words through Grace's account, leaving us as readers to work out what their motives are and whether or not we should trust them. I won't name any so not to give away any of my own personal thoughts about them, as when you read the book you will come up with your own opinions. There are some very strong characters in the boat, and it quickly becomes apparent who the weaker people are, and it is riveting to read Grace's tale of the scenes being played out between the characters, what happens when there are disagreements, what alliances may be forming and what hidden agendas and motives some of them may have.

The Lifeboat is a complex and gripping story about what lengths a group of people will go to when they are fighting for survival. It is thought-provoking - throughout the book I was constantly contemplating what I would be doing or how would I be acting if I was in their shoes and desperately needed to survive. The Lifeboat is intense, it is truly terrifying and it will have you on the edge of your seat desperate to know who, if any, make it out alive. This is definitely one of my favourite books that I have read this year, I cannot fault a single piece of the book. A brilliantly written book, and I can not wait for Charlotte Rogan's future releases!
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on 25 September 2013
A good idea, obviously based on the Titanic.However, I found it dragging in parts and had no liking for the central character.
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VINE VOICEon 13 May 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Grace Winter is 22 years old and a widow. She and her husband were on the Empress Alexandra when it sank in 1914 following an explosion. Grace finds herself on one of the few lifeboats to be launched, the subject of some suspicion as it appears that her husband may have bought her a place on the already crowded craft. The Lifeboat is a tale of survival and what we will do to survive. The question for this novel is - has Grace killed someone in order to survive. She is on trial with two other woman from the lifeboat for the murder of one of the lifeboat's occupants and has written her account of the twenty one days spent at sea, at the behest of her lawyer.

The lifeboat is overladen and doomed to sink as Hardie, the only crew member on board, repeatedly tells the other 38 occupants of the boat. The opening accounts of the lifeboat being rowed away from the sinking liner are very striking with hard choices being made by Hardie such as ignoring a small, drowning boy. He takes charge and from Grace's account is a sinister, manipulative figure who although initially trusted, comes to be feared by Grace and others. He is ruthless in his attempts to keep at least some of them alive but gradually he loses his power.

As might be expected from a book set almost entirely in a small boat, the atmosphere is claustrophobic. Rogan does a brilliant job of exploring the cliques, factions and alliances that we are all prone to in whatever setting we find ourselves. Grace finds herself a little out of sorts as a powerful female alliance of Hannah and Mrs Grant comes to dominate the lifeboat. She cannot help but seek approval, first from Hardie and then, as power shifts from the two women.

We can't but feel that Grace is an unreliable narrator. She is conveniently forgetful of some things which might be incriminating: how she came to be on the lifeboat for example, or what exactly her part was in the death of a fellow survivor. At other times she is searingly honest when talking about her ambition. Brought up a wealthy young woman she is determined that poverty will not be her lot when her father loses his fortune and kills himself. Faced with the option of following in her sister's footsteps and becoming a governess, she sets out to win the heart of a wealthy banker. Much of her time in the lifeboat is spent worrying about whether her husband's telegraph of his marriage will have reached his family. For with him dead, it will not be easy to prove their marriage which took place in London, in a country about to go to war. It's not easy to like such a character.

This was a very easy to read book, well written and paced very well. I found myself racing to get through it to find out what happened. It is a book that I will read again because it is so well written, and I would recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon 11 June 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If I'm honest, I found this book hard going in places and wasn't really enthused to pick it up and continue reading which was a shame because I was so looking forward to reading it. It was very well written, but I just found the book a bit disappointing, particularly the ending with several questions left unanswered satisfactorily.

I didn't warm to Grace at all, I thought she was manipulative and possibly deceitful. Some of her recollections were ambiguous and I don't believe she was such an innocent as we were led to think. She clearly sought out to ensnare Henry, the wealthy banker whom she married after a brief courtship (and who broke off his engagement to another to marry Grace). As to many of the other characters on the lifeboat (there were 39 in the lifeboat initially) I didn't know enough about most of them to form an opinion but I didn't really engage with any of them, even the stronger characters like Hardie, Mrs Grant and Hannah, and found it hard to care whether any of them survived.

The tensions and divisions in the lifeboat were well described, as were the suffering they endured for 21 days whilst waiting to be rescued. It really was a case of survival of the strongest and those too weak or useless were deemed to be dispensable.

I've given the book 4 stars because overall the quality of the writing deserves it, it just wasn't a book that I can say I particularly wholly enjoyed.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 29 March 2012
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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on 1 August 2015
According to the review from The Times, this book is "Almost unbearably exciting"...they must have been reviewing another book with the same title. Thirty-nine people escaping certain death after an unexpected explosion on their ship across the Atlantic, crammed into an overladen lifeboat and adrift for 14 days - it should be ripe with terror, despair, pain and desperation. If only! The general demeanour and dialogue of these poor souls is about as edgy as a discussion on the merits of Indian against China tea in an Edwardian drawing room. The narration of the story is equally weak - for example, on Day 9 the author treats us to a devastating insight into these appalling conditions that I would never have guessed had she not told us... "The nights were cold".
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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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on 6 March 2013
"Almost unbelievably exiting - you'll gulp it down in a single sitting." So says Kate Saunders from The Times.

Well...A good read? Maybe. An interesting read? Maybe. But almost unbelievably exiting? No.

So I guess I shouldn't put too much faith in what is said by Ms Saunders or her colleagues on the front of book covers.

The Lifeboat, at 288 pages, is possibly two-thirds the length of many novels, and so should make for a relatively quick read. I thought at times that Charlotte Rogan had captured the tedium of being stuck in a lifeboat rather well. She doesn't concentrate the story on every passenger in the boat but the ones she does tell of, often felt like they could have been expanded on. Rogan definitely got the reality of being stuck in a lifeboat right, as I was reading this stuck in the middle of the Atlantic (that is to say stuck in the middle of the book), waiting, waiting, waiting, but nothing ever happened in any great detail, characters never came to life, just waiting, waiting, waiting and then it ended.

So as I say, I don't agree with Kate Saunders of the Times and although I found the premise of The Lifeboat to be interesting, through most of this novel I felt something was lacking. For me The Lifeboat had the potential to be a great novel, but with underdeveloped characters and story I will give only two stars.
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