The Lifeboat

  • by Charlotte Rogan
  • Narrated by Rebecca Gibel
  • 7 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.
In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband, Henry, across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.
As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found. Will she pay any price to keep it?
The Lifeboat is a pause-resistant novel of hard choices and survival, narrated by a woman as unforgettable and complex as the events she describes.


What the Critics Say

"The Lifeboat traps the reader in a story that is exciting at the literal level and brutally moving at the existential: I read it in one go." (Emma Donoghue, author of Room)
"What a splendid book.... I can't imagine any reader who looks at the opening pages wanting to put the book down.... It's so refreshing to read a book that is ambitious and yet not tricksy, where the author seems to be in command of her material and really on top of her game. It's beautifully controlled and totally believable." (Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall)
"The Lifeboat is a spellbinding and beautifully written novel, one that will keep readers turning pages late into the night. This is storytelling at its best, and I was completely absorbed from beginning to end." (Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried, In the Lake of the Woods, July, July)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Lord of the Flies on the Water

In the very first few minutes of this Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat the passengers in lifeboat 14 make their way through the debris of their ship. Trying to stay afloat they don’t rescue a child floating on some wreckage next to his dead mom and actually beat away swimmers attempting to board their boat. It is one moral dilemma after another from there on out. Soon they come to realize the boat is overloaded. As hours and days drag on their humanity is tested. All of this is described through the perspective of Grace Winter a newlywed whose husband did not make the lifeboat. The story is told through a journal of sorts she is preparing for her legal defense. The gripping scene in the lifeboat is periodically interrupted with this legal drama as we are filled in on how the eventual rescue led to her arrest. We are also given some backstory on Grace and her courtship to frame the harrowing lifeboat experience.

The lifeboat passages are by far the most compelling, but the legal ramifications of Grace’s experience eventually take hold. Grace is scarily relatable, she’s imperfect in so many ways but I never found myself judging her decisions. My chief complaint with the novel is the author hints at a lot, but then leaves it unresolved. Also, Rogan gives a lot away for free, ie, we know Grace is alive from the beginning of the story. Overall though, by focusing not only on the lifeboat but also on the consequences we are delivered a more rounded and realistic story. I listened to the entire novel in one sitting, captivated by the premise and eager to see how the story would unfold.

Rebecca Glibel narrates. She sounds strangely modern which is somewhat disjointed for the piece but otherwise delivers a strong performance.
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- Amazon Customer

Staying Power

I can’t get this book out of my head, and it’s not because I L-O-V-E-D it. I thought it was impressive and momentous, but I can’t say I loved it. It was too horrific to love.

Some background: this is the story of a woman who survived a Titanic-like event by spending 21 days in an overcrowded lifeboat. It’s clear from the beginning that not everyone makes it, but that the heroine does because as the book opens she’s standing trial for murder for events that happened on the lifeboat. These aren’t spoilers – this is simply premise. So you begin the book with a certain set of facts and you work your way through, trying to make sense of the experience along with the characters.

This is where Charlotte Rogan is the cleverest. As you realize that not everyone is going to survive, you start to detach yourself from the characters. You build up a wall to protect yourself from the feeling of devastation when someone goes. You become an impassioned observer and you allow the edges of right and wrong to blur. In other words – you do exactly what the heroine does, and you start to understand her perspective.

After finishing I also realized – and this is what has been sticking with me the last few days – that this is a feminist work in disguise. Grace, the protagonist, has made her way successfully through life and beaten the odds that were pitched against her, in large part because she plays the game in a man’s world, without questioning it. You start to understand – but only near the end of this book – that gender politics are central to the plot, and the way this revelation unfolds is remarkably subtle and powerful.
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- Emily - Audible "As an Audible Editor I listen for a living! British classics, YA novels, speculative fiction, and anything quirky, fascinating, or heart-wrenching."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-23-2012
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio