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The Lifeboat: A Novel | [Charlotte Rogan]

The Lifeboat: A Novel

Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life. In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband, Henry, across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die. As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found.
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Publisher's Summary

Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband, Henry, across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found. Will she pay any price to keep it?

The Lifeboat is a pause-resistant novel of hard choices and survival, narrated by a woman as unforgettable and complex as the events she describes.

©2012 Charlotte Rogan (P)2012 Hachette Audio

What the Critics Say

"The Lifeboat traps the reader in a story that is exciting at the literal level and brutally moving at the existential: I read it in one go." (Emma Donoghue, author of Room)

"What a splendid book.... I can't imagine any reader who looks at the opening pages wanting to put the book down.... It's so refreshing to read a book that is ambitious and yet not tricksy, where the author seems to be in command of her material and really on top of her game. It's beautifully controlled and totally believable." (Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall)

"The Lifeboat is a spellbinding and beautifully written novel, one that will keep readers turning pages late into the night. This is storytelling at its best, and I was completely absorbed from beginning to end." (Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried, In the Lake of the Woods, July, July)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.3 (178 )
5 star
 (23)
4 star
 (54)
3 star
 (60)
2 star
 (28)
1 star
 (13)
Overall
3.2 (149 )
5 star
 (20)
4 star
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3 star
 (47)
2 star
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1 star
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Story
3.5 (150 )
5 star
 (27)
4 star
 (52)
3 star
 (45)
2 star
 (17)
1 star
 (9)
Performance
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  •  
    Amazon Customer CA, United States 04-05-12
    Amazon Customer CA, United States 04-05-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    296
    ratings
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    115
    19
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    Story
    "Lord of the Flies on the Water"

    In the very first few minutes of this Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat the passengers in lifeboat 14 make their way through the debris of their ship. Trying to stay afloat they don’t rescue a child floating on some wreckage next to his dead mom and actually beat away swimmers attempting to board their boat. It is one moral dilemma after another from there on out. Soon they come to realize the boat is overloaded. As hours and days drag on their humanity is tested. All of this is described through the perspective of Grace Winter a newlywed whose husband did not make the lifeboat. The story is told through a journal of sorts she is preparing for her legal defense. The gripping scene in the lifeboat is periodically interrupted with this legal drama as we are filled in on how the eventual rescue led to her arrest. We are also given some backstory on Grace and her courtship to frame the harrowing lifeboat experience.

    The lifeboat passages are by far the most compelling, but the legal ramifications of Grace’s experience eventually take hold. Grace is scarily relatable, she’s imperfect in so many ways but I never found myself judging her decisions. My chief complaint with the novel is the author hints at a lot, but then leaves it unresolved. Also, Rogan gives a lot away for free, ie, we know Grace is alive from the beginning of the story. Overall though, by focusing not only on the lifeboat but also on the consequences we are delivered a more rounded and realistic story. I listened to the entire novel in one sitting, captivated by the premise and eager to see how the story would unfold.

    Rebecca Glibel narrates. She sounds strangely modern which is somewhat disjointed for the piece but otherwise delivers a strong performance.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathy Laguna HIlls, CA, United States 04-14-12
    Kathy Laguna HIlls, CA, United States 04-14-12 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    8
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    "FELL FLAT"
    What did you like best about The Lifeboat? What did you like least?

    The critics' reviews intrigued me to listen to this book. I almost never get a book until I have read some reader reviews, but something about this one made me want to get. It seemed like it was such a great premise it had to be good. I was very disappointed. I felt no connection to any character in the book whatsoever. It was only 7 hours yet I had a really tough time finishing it. I found it puzzling that what should be such a "tense" storyline was so "flat."


    Would you be willing to try another book from Charlotte Rogan? Why or why not?

    I would never say never after just reading one book.


    What didn’t you like about Rebecca Gibel’s performance?

    Her voice didn't seem to fit the period or the mood. I did not think she was a bad narrator, I just thought this book was not a good fit for her. Hard to tell whether she did not bring any life to the book or the book had no life to bring.


    Do you think The Lifeboat needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    I thought this book was a great idea and could have explored t so many human emotions/actions, yet, as I stated, I was hard-pressed to even finish it and there was no sense of connection with anybody.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melinda UT 04-15-12
    Melinda UT 04-15-12 Member Since 2009

    So hooked by audio that I have to read books aloud. *If my reviews help, please let me know.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    8092
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    235
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    11
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    Story
    "A Boat Full of Sharks"

    Never has a more morally bankrupt bunch of self-serving shipwrecks--none of whom obviously ever heard the phrase "there is no "i" in teamwork--sailed together over the ocean blue. (This group wouldn't have made it across the English Channel in a motor boat.) A leaky lifeboat-load of bogus aristocrats, genteel sociopaths, crooked crewmen, and a deacon, plops into the ocean over the side of a sinking ship, and "may or may not" be carrying jewels, disguised husbands, and other secrets...a very promising and intriguing concept...that sprung a few little leaks of its own in the realization. And that's too bad because I liked the book; it was a good debut novel--it was just a little loose.

    Too many "may or may not's", too many unsupported possibilities, even for a book that is intended to be ambiguous, got in the way. The characters (a fun array-but almost straight out of central casting leftovers from Titanic) were mostly vague and undimensional, possible with a first person narrative, but because they were not given any background or situational development for the logical follow through of what was loosely implied, there was too much sloppy conjecture instead of viable conclusions. (The Life of Pi brilliantly succeeds with this notion by having the reader choose a conclusion from possibilities that were solidly built upon throughout the book.) For instance: just when the author finally seems to be hinting at a profile of the main character, a conniving black widow? or demure damsel in distress?, she instead creates more obfuscation--and that overall style too often created more holes in what could have been an intelligent thought provoking mystery. As far as the narrator, she seems to read every line overly intense or with anger...seemed to be as confused about what "may or may not" have really been going on as I was, but she gave it a good try (and had great diction).

    Still, I would recommend this one; I just wish the author would go back to the drawing board and relaunch this Lifeboat.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 06-02-12
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 06-02-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I'd rather drown, thanks!"

    This book was so over-hyped that I expected nothing short of a masterpiece. Not quite. I never really liked the main character, it never felt like a turn of the century setting, and I couldn't wait for them to be rescued - so the book would end! Skip it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emily - Audible Maplewood, NJ, United States 04-16-12
    Emily - Audible Maplewood, NJ, United States 04-16-12 Member Since 2008

    As an Audible Editor I listen for a living! British classics, YA novels, speculative fiction, and anything quirky, fascinating, or heart-wrenching.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    600
    ratings
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    27
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    "Staying Power"

    I can’t get this book out of my head, and it’s not because I L-O-V-E-D it. I thought it was impressive and momentous, but I can’t say I loved it. It was too horrific to love.

    Some background: this is the story of a woman who survived a Titanic-like event by spending 21 days in an overcrowded lifeboat. It’s clear from the beginning that not everyone makes it, but that the heroine does because as the book opens she’s standing trial for murder for events that happened on the lifeboat. These aren’t spoilers – this is simply premise. So you begin the book with a certain set of facts and you work your way through, trying to make sense of the experience along with the characters.

    This is where Charlotte Rogan is the cleverest. As you realize that not everyone is going to survive, you start to detach yourself from the characters. You build up a wall to protect yourself from the feeling of devastation when someone goes. You become an impassioned observer and you allow the edges of right and wrong to blur. In other words – you do exactly what the heroine does, and you start to understand her perspective.

    After finishing I also realized – and this is what has been sticking with me the last few days – that this is a feminist work in disguise. Grace, the protagonist, has made her way successfully through life and beaten the odds that were pitched against her, in large part because she plays the game in a man’s world, without questioning it. You start to understand – but only near the end of this book – that gender politics are central to the plot, and the way this revelation unfolds is remarkably subtle and powerful.

    13 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew Bellevue, WA, United States 01-31-13
    Matthew Bellevue, WA, United States 01-31-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "interesting concept, unconventional style"

    This is a "concept" novel that is part survival story and part legal drama with some elements of mystery thrown in. It would be hard to call this a fully developed novel in the classical literary sense. It is lacking too many elements such as well-developed characters and a consistent underlying theme.

    There are many characters, all of whom are one dimensional, and some add little to the story. I didn't find it easy to relate to the protaganist (narrator). The story is at its best as a survival story. Outside of that part of the story, the pacing is rather inconsistent. I listened to parts of the last 1/4 of the book on 1.5X speed.

    The narration was fine, though nothing special. I couldn't rate it higher than 2 or 3 stars overall, simply based on the material.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 04-12-12
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 04-12-12 Member Since 2010

    Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What was the point?"
    What aspect of Rebecca Gibel’s performance would you have changed?

    I can't really pinpoint what about her reading failed to connect, but I never felt that she really inhabited any of the characters. You could feel the acting in the reading. This could be at least partially due to the shallowness of the character development by the author.


    Any additional comments?

    While I had hoped for a more intense story about the dynamics of people unknown to each other being placed in peril on a lifeboat, this turned out to be a strangely dispassionate narrative from only one person's perspective. Because that person was selfishly passive about her circumstances, and so easily manipulated if she thought there was something in it for her, we learn almost nothing about the other passengers. Everything is filtered through Grace's shifting perceptions. I agree with the previous reviewer that Grace is a seriously flawed person, and that usually offers literary opportunity for growth. But Grace's flaws were with her before the lifeboat, remained with her throughout the time on the sea, throughout her trial and she came out the other side essentially unchanged. There is a lot of discussion of the ethics and morality of lifeboat survival, mixed with strong undercurrents of the gender politics of a century ago. None of this gave life to any of the characters and I found no one to root for or have any serious curiousity about. The book ended with a shrug.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tanya LAS VEGAS, NV, United States 08-13-12
    Tanya LAS VEGAS, NV, United States 08-13-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    5
    5
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    "Just Watch Titanic"

    Very slow and boring. Just watch the movie again and imagine the people in the lifeboats and what they do after the boat sinks and there you go.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judy New CIty, NY, United States 07-23-12
    Judy New CIty, NY, United States 07-23-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    1
    1
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    "Very Predictable"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    This book was underdeveloped and very predictable. Lots of opportunities for characters to develop and events to take a different direction but they weren't explored. The story is a quick read which is good for the summer, and I don't regret reading it, just buying it! I should have just borrowed it from the library!


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Yes


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Treetown reader 06-17-12 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
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    25
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    "Lots of hype that didn't deliver"
    What didn???t you like about Rebecca Gibel???s performance?

    She had a somewhat annoying voice and her delivery didn't add to the story at all.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment. There had been lots of press hype on this book, so i was looking forward to it. The story was quite disjointed and the frequent time shifts didn't help that at all. I kept waiting for background information on the characters, the ship, etc., but all I got were a lot of dangling ends that never got tied up....one or two of those are OK, but a long series of them left me "at sea". I never really developed an affinity to any of the people on the life boat.....they were so one dimensional and I really didn't care who went overboard when. It could have been a fantastic story, but as it was it was just mediocre.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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