Wednesday, 14 August 2013

" The Lifeboat " by Charlotte Rogan

This book is set in 1914 when a luxury ocean liner sinks after an unexplained explosion.  Like Titanic, the lifeboats were poorly equipped and insufficient for needs.
When 22 year old Grace is placed as the last passenger in the boat, little does she realise she will be onboard the cramped and damaged craft for three weeks.

This is a story of fear, uncertainty and survival in a harrowing novel that makes you question how you would cope under similar circumstances.

I can honestly say that the first chapter of this book was just amazing, one of the best beginnings I have read in a long time.

The concept of having too many people crammed into a lifeboat gave way to some fantastic writing  " Mr Hoffman was the first to mention what we all were thinking : The boat had not be designed for so many. A few minutes later, Colonel Marsh pointed out a brass plaque that was nailed next to the second starboard oarlock and engraved with the words capacity 40 persons.  But even with the 39 of us, it was obvious to everyone that the boat rode far too low in the water and that it was only because the day was still that this this did not present a greater danger.", 

The atmosphere in the boat becomes unbearable quite early on in their journey, when the appointed skipper declares that some people should volunteer to throw themselves overboard in order to save the majority.
Grace spots this but keeps it to herself.  " I had a feeling we were being manipulated in some way; but my mind was numb with fear and perhaps it is only in retrospect, now that I am facing a different sort of authority, that it seems there might have been webs of influence and deceit in the lifeboat from the very start."

The storyteller, Grace quickly becomes unlikable though and the shallowness of the other characters on the boat makes it very difficult for the reader to make a connection with the rest of the book.
" Mary Ann began to cry and wail. It was a pitiful sound and would have been heart-rending if I had not gone long past pity and if it weren't for the clearly advantageous fact that the boat was now two people lighter than when we had started out ".

There are a few flashback type memories, from Grace of how she came to meet her new Husband, who brought her on the ship, but this just made me dislike her even more. She was cold and calculated long before she boarded the large liner.

I felt as if I was stuck in the middle of the ocean myself while reading most of this, not because of the wonderful descriptions or scene setting, but because I was bobbing along on a wave of boredom.......

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