The Lifeboat is an intense novel of 39 people on a lifeboat having to make tough life changing decisions as they have to survive and wait for rescue. This novel is so freaking amazing and really puts you in the situation while asking you the reader what would you do to survive. I had a friend who rated this 3 stars and I really was really shocked thinking this was an easy five star review and it was for three fourths, then the end comes and totally destroy’s what I enjoyed the survival, and makes the novel about one sacrifice that members of the boat had to make. So I ended up agreeing with my friend and rating it a disappointing 3 out of 5 stars. I don’t think I’ve ever read an ending that turned me against a book that I was thoroughly enjoying this much. I will compare it to Life of Pi by Yann Martel, because they both involve a lifeboat for the majority of the novel and the final act takes place on land as characters recover on land. The Lifeboat did better about not being repetitive in its character’s fight for survival, Life of Pi was more philosophical and nailed the metaphor’s of an open sea and madness, but Life of Pi has a draw dropping ending that sets it far apart.
The Plot: In the Summer of 1914 two years after the Titanic sunk, and with World War I just weeks away, the ship the Empress Alexandria is the passenger’s last chance to escape England and head to America before the war starts. Grace and her new rich husband Henry Winter are on the voyage, when the ship has an explosion, and starts to go down. Henry finagles using his money to get Grace on a life boat, the actually pull the lifeboat back up from the water putting the 38 other passengers to not like her privilege, and starts a conspiracy, with Grace and the lifeboat’s captain Mr. Hardie a hard man that is quick to make hard decisions for the passenger’s survival, Like not picking up any people treading water even children and using the oars to beat people swimming up to the lifeboat. Mrs. Grant a strong woman with her own ideas with how to run the lifeboat, will clash with Mr. Hardie putting Grace and other passengers in the middle. Can the passengers survive long enough to survive the elements and the people of lifeboat 14.
“Hannah led us all in a little prayer, the ritual seemed decidedly pagan, a prayer of appeasement to the sea to which we had just made a blood sacrifice.” – Grace
What I Liked: Making a raft on the open ocean, seem interesting and new, without being boring is a hard thing do which is pulled off masterfully. All the Characters’ have there own voice and are memorable the only hard thing is remembering the seating arrangement. Mr. Hardie is a fantastic character he’s a hard man, that has discipline, and the kind of leader that will make crazy hard decisions and just own them. Mrs. Grant is a good foil who quietly cast doubt and uses gossip to her advantage. I like the approach and the questions asked showing it’s a man’s world that is being challenged by strong women who are totally just as capable of leading, I think the execution of this idea cold of been better but the idea is there and I got the author’s point. The starvation and changes in physical form are described really well make you the reader feel how desperate the situation is. The end of the second act is really amazing, should have been the finale.
What I Disliked: The entire third act, it is such a swift switch to a different aspect all together, It made me turn back the pages to read the pages I just read, with a huh? The third act is a slap in the face to all the character’s still in the lifeboat as there story is quickly wrapped up and we get a trial about Grace and the surviving passengers and the decisions that were made on the lifeboat. The audience only gets 14 days of a 21 day adventure, and that can’t be forgiven.
Recommendations: I loved three fourths of this novel so much, but that last quarter changes everything and I can not recommend this novel, read Life of Pi if you want an engrossing tale of survival on a lifeboat with an amazing ending. I disappointedly rate this 3 out of 5 stars.