In the summer of 1914, the Empress Alexandra, a magnificent transatlantic liner, suffers a mysterious explosion en route to New York. On board are Henry Winter, a rich banker, and his young new wife, Grace. Somehow, Henry manages to secure a place in a lifeboat for Grace. But the survivors quickly realize it is overloaded and could sink at any moment. For any to live, some must die.
As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace watches and waits. She has learned the value of patience – her journey to a life of glittering privilege has been far from straightforward. Now she knows that life is in jeopardy, and her very survival is at stake.
Survival in its most basic form makes for a compelling story, but the discussion such a story creates can be just as absorbing. At least this is what our Monday Night Bookclub found when we met to discuss The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan.
Our opinions on the book’s protagonist Grace was somewhat consistent; smart, class conscious, self-absorbed, cunning and above all, a survivor. But we did vary on the power of the story.
Some found it gripping, convincing and well structured, while others thought it lacked intensity and a powerful climax. Sandra cared little for any of the castaways and felt nothing at their demise. Jean anticipated dramatic consequences that never transpired (much to her frustration!).
Mary was conscious that history is always told by the survivors and was skeptical of Grace’s story on how things unfolded on the lifeboat.
All these points took us into a fascinating discussion on the human psyche and the act of survival, with Cherie and Jean relating personally known experiences.
In the end, it was unanimously agreed that it is impossible to know how you would react in such a situation, and we all hope never to find out!