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.
As a rule, the underlying theme of your typical novel is not hard to determine. In fact, it tends to be one of the first observations our group will make and agree upon. Then along comes The Lifeboat. The title alone cries out ‘survival’ as its focus. But as our discussion moved along it became clear that Grace was hiding more than a callous need to survive.
It was Anne who suggested that Rogan’s main character was in fact even lying to us and that as readers we only have her version of what happened in the lifeboat. Can we believe her? In learning how she purposefully manufactured her life (before the shipwreck) and those in it, we think not!
So, now our thread of thought seems to be moving into the realm of manipulation and falsification and how one person uses others to advance their own ends. Some argue that this is a form of survival, but this cut little ice with most of us.
In fact, there was no sympathy for Grace within our group, or for anyone else for that matter. We all conceded that the story was well written, but there was a certain lack of connectivity to the passengers and their predicament, where we thought we should be feeling a great deal of sympathy and compassion.
Much was left to speculation, which in turn left us wondering what we would have done and begs that big question any story of this sort asks … is it worth sacrificing a few for the many?
This novel provides no whys … only whats, so if you’re looking for a read that will give you all the answers, we suggest steering clear (pun intended) of The Lifeboat!