Charlotte Rogan’s novel, The Lifeboat, asks us just how far we would go in order to survive a disaster.
It is 1914 when the liner, the Empress Alexandra, is sinking and thirty-nine people are crammed into a lifeboat under the guidance of ship’s officer Mr Hardie. Among them is Grace Winter, the young bride of a wealthy banker. Mr Hardie makes some tough decisions, refusing to pick up any survivors in the water, announcing that when the seas get rough, the boat is likely to capsize unless someone volunteers to go over the side.
The story conveys the difficulties the passengers face – the tiny rations of water and food, storms and sickness, the loss of hope. The charismatic Mrs Grant turns against Mr Hardie on many decisions, gathering support where she can until the story climaxes in violence. We already know from the book’s opening scene that several passengers are being tried for murder, among them Grace Winter. Has she survived several weeks in the lifeboat only to spend the rest of her life behind bars?
Weaving together accounts of Grace’s trial, flashbacks to when she met her husband and the long days on the water, The Lifeboat is difficult to put down. The physical nature of her ordeal and the appalling despair of the survivors make for grim reading, but somehow you can’t stop. A tense and atmospheric book from an author to watch.
Posted by JAM
Catalogue Link: The Lifeboat
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