Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Lifeboat - Charlotte Rogan (Audio)

The initial reviews coming in for this debut novel were exciting...I heard about character studies and unreliable narrators and human frailty.  Plus, what could be more intriguing that a lifeboat full of people in the middle of the ocean?  Survival skills, weather, animals, all clashing in one small place.  I had memories of "The Life of Pi", "Unbroken", Jack and Rose, Joe Versus the Volcano!  So when I was able to get my hands on an audio review copy (muchas gracias Mitch at Hachette Audio!), I was buzzing with anticipation.


Unfortunately it did not quite live up to my expectations.  It has taken me some time to admit this to even myself, because I'm one of the lone few that feels this way.  Let me tell you a bit about the premise:


Synopsis:  Grace Winter was only 22 when she met and married Henry, a wealthy businessman.  Convinced that she had found happiness and an end to her worries of money, she boarded an luxurious ocean liner with her new husband, headed across the Atlantic.  But when there is an explosion, the passengers' fears from the Titanic's sinking two years earlier are realized, and the ship goes down.  Grace's husband secures her a spot on one of the lifeboats, but it is immediately clear they are beyond capacity.  


Grace narrates her tale of survival, of dwindling supplies and harsh elements, that challenge the survivors.  But of bigger concern are the dramas unfolding within the boat...power struggles, alliances made and broken, hidden agendas and secrets carefully guarded.  As one could imagine, as resources wane, tension escalates, and things go very wrong for the inhabitants of the lifeboat, leaving Grace on trial for her life.  What really happened out there?  Can we trust a word she says?


My thoughts:  I think most everyone knows going into this book that Grace is telling her own cock-and-bull story (You like that?  Slang from the farm it is.)  She parses out what she wants us to hear and believe, as she sits in prison on trial for murder.  (This is not a spoiler...we know this in the first page.)  She is doing some fast-talking and tap dancing.  So you expect half-truths, and for her to be an unlikeable character.  Because of all the hype for the book, though, I figured the rug would be pulled out from under me, and I'd be blown away by some outlandish, unforeseeable plot twist.  I was not.


The character development WAS fun.  Under the stress, and the effort to survive, the lifeboat inhabitants turned into vile, scrappy, conniving creatures, and this was entertaining to observe.  But the observing all took place from an emotional distance, like you would at the monkey cage at the zoo.  It was hard to invest in any one person, and the pace was slow.  As I closed in on the end, I found that I was weary of Grace and wanted it to be over.


There are very discussable points here though, and for that reason, would make this a good choice for book clubs.  I wouldn't imagine it would be the 2012 favorite, but would anticipate lots of debate, which is ultimately what you want in a book club read. 


A few words about the audio production:  The narrator for this book was Rebecca Gibel, who is a new voice for me.  She did a decent job at bringing Grace to life, with her innocent-sounding voice with traces of undercurrent.  Neither was it overly memorable however.


Listening length:  7 hours and 47 minutes (288 pages)  


2.5 out of 5 stars         





17 comments:

caite said...

I do remember the buzz when this came out...but your review certainly gives me pause. An interesting idea that didn't pan out.

bermudaonion said...

I've seen mixed reviews for this book but think I'd still like to give it a try.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I'm up in the air on wanting to read/listen to this one. Part of me wants to because I do want to read about the interactions on the lifeboat, but on the other hand, something about it doesn't pull me in. I don't know. Normally when I have this type of feeling about a book, it usually ends up not being one I should read, but I know a lot of reviewers have really enjoyed this so who knows? I'll probably give it some time to let the hype die down before I pick it up!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

So glad you posted this review. I've been on the fence and I think I'll skip it for now. There are way too many books I'm dying to read.

Meg @ write meg! said...

Hmm. The premise does sound really good, really interesting, but I think I'd have much the same reactions as you.

Ti said...

I was in the camp that didn't like it. It failed to hold my interest and I did not care what happened to anyone. Always a bad sign.

Zibilee said...

I have been really curious about this one, and was wondering if I would like it, but reading your review makes me think that I would probably end up feeling like you did, and when I can't attach to any of the characters in a book, it leaves me feeling emotionally blunted. I am glad to see your honest words about this one. I think I will be skipping it.

Jenners said...

I agree with pretty much all that you said … but I wouldn't rate it as low as you did. I do think it would be a great book club read -- lots of debate as to what "really" happened. But, like you, I kept expecting MORE than I got after reading all the great reviews for it. It was disappointing in the end.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

i agree more with Jenners, I think.

Julie P. said...

Maybe a product of too much hype? I read it pretty early on and liked it a lot. Agree that it would be exciting to discuss!

Jackie Bailey said...

I wasn't a fan of this either. I agree with you about the emotioanl distance - I wanted to care about those poor people stuck on a lifeboat and I felt nothing for any of them. Such a shame.

JoAnn said...

Aw, too bad it didn't work for you... even harder when so many others seem to love it. Can't decide whether to give his a try or not, but am leaning toward not.

Beth F said...

I really liked it. Yes there was no "wow" factor, but I thought there was a lot to talk about and I liked trying to figure out truth from fiction.

Trisha said...

I like a bit more "oh my heavens" with stories like this; the set up seems to call for it.

Laurie C said...

At least it was only 7 hours long! I must have seen some of the so-so reviews early on, because I never put The Lifeboat on my TBR list.

Jenny said...

Hmmm, I remember you saying you didn't love this one, but your review still intrigues me. I like books that make you think or want to debate something. I think I'll still give this one a try. I'm on hold for this one at the library.

Kathleen said...

I've got this one on my shelf at home. I bought it after reading rave reviews. I'm worried now after reading your review because you and I always seem to agree on books.