Wednesday, April 04, 2012
First Wednesday Book Review Club: The Lifeboat, Charlotte Rogan
Charlotte Rogan is publishing her first novel post age 50, which gives aspiring novelists a lift. And quite a novel it is. Set in 1914, as World War 1 is beginning, a ship, Empress Alexandra, goes down. Our narrator, a woman of 22, is one of the forty people that manage to get themselves on one of the lifeboats. Her recent husband does not.
We know from the start she is on trial for murder with two other women. They are accused of pushing the man who has commandeered the lifeboat overboard. The book examines what occurred on the life boat, which although said to be fit for forty is vastly overfilled. The weeks spent on the boat are full of degradation, hardship, starvation, madness.
There is an enigmatic quality to our narrator. How did she manage to wrestle her husband away from the woman he was engaged to? How did she manage to get a spot on the boat? How did she come away from the trial with a new husband in tow? Is she the naive woman she appears to be, taking her cues from more experienced travelers? Or is she more savy than her companions, push come to shove.
It will be up to you as the reader to judge her. Perhaps your judgement will be harsher than her jury's. Or perhaps more lenient than her fellow travelers. This is a deep and troubling book you will not soon forget. We learn very little about the men on this boat, but a lot about the woman.
This is fitting, I think. Highly recommended.
For more reviews, see Barrie Summy.