THE LIFEBOAT by Charlotte Rogan

I wonder how many lifeboat books there are, other than Das Boot?   Maybe not as many as a reader might think.

This lifeboat tale is told in first person by a sweet young newlywed, Grace Winter, whose husband does something ….. we are never sure just exactly what ….. to get her into an already somewhat overcrowded lifeboat as their ship, The Empress of something or another, sank rapidly after a mysterious explosion.

It is 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was just assassinated, so and after having honeymooned in Europe, the young Winters grab a ship home to the USA.  but alas, that explosion puts an end to their lovely cruise.  Was it from a submarine?  The cause was never found, but it was found that the lifeboats were underequipped, and the evacuation process was chaotic, with some boats not full, and other overcrowded.

The boat in which Grace found herself included one seaman from the ship, who took charge.  As they float around, hoping to be rescued,  the 39 passengers began to exhibit their true natures, and our narrator begins to show us that perhaps she is not as reliable a narrator as we might have wished.

We learn of these events as she writes her account of the ordeal while sitting in prison awaiting trial with two other women, for murder of one of the people on the lifeboat.  She writes not only about the lifeboat but about her life leading up to the sailing, and we come to understand that Grace has the soul of a survivor, and nice guys finish last.

Great book, and the twists are sleight and devious, until we come to that point where we are saying to ourselves, “Oh.  Oh. Oh.”,  having been under the spell of the sweet-natured and good-hearted Grace.  We remind ourselves that it is the winners who write the history.

 

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