Monday, December 24, 2012
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
From there, Grace's journal -- which she has written on her lawyers' request to recount the events in the lifeboat -- takes you back to the day of the explosion that sank the ship, and how Grace found herself as one of 39 survivors in a lifeboat. From the very beginning -- when it becomes evident that the lifeboat, despite its placard claiming a capacity of 40, isn't big enough to hold them all -- you know that some of the survivors will have to die in order for the rest to survive.
When I started this book, I was expecting Hollywood-style drama and suffering, but the story itself is quieter and grimmer. The narration is a beautifully done character portrait, in that you find yourself wondering at times whether Grace is telling the truth -- and what she might be lying about. It's also written in a somewhat old-fashioned style that (between the language and the woman accused) reminded me a bit of The Scarlet Letter, if that book had been written in Hester's voice instead of in third-person. In some of the reviews on Barnes & Noble's website, readers claimed they devoured the book in only a night or two -- and it is a little on the short side, but I thought it was better read over a few days, since I found that I wanted to read more slowly in order to properly absorb the language and the details.
Although I liked the book, in the end I was left feeling somewhat unsatisfied. I think I suspected and wanted to find out that Grace was concealing some crucial detail, and the fact that the author never addressed what that might be was disappointed. I still wonder if I missed something important! Even so, I would certainly recommend this book, which is an interesting exploration of whether it is moral to sacrifice a few so that the rest can survive.