We all know the story of the Titanic’s sinking, right down to how the 20 lifeboats bearing 700+ survivors were picked up by the Carpathia the next morning after a harrowing night adrift at sea. But what might have happened had no rescue boat arrived? That’s the premise of Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat, and it’s not a pretty story, as food and water run out with a madman in charge.
Set in 1914, The Lifeboat is told through the voice of Grace Winter, a new bride whose husband may or may not have escaped aboard another boat. Grace details life in the overcrowded boat over the course of three desperately long weeks: the constant bailing of water, the dwindling of rations, the horror of a squall line looming. As time wears on, tempers flare, and the ultimate rule of seaman Mr. Hardie becomes unbearable; though some of the inhabitants succumb to the harshness, there still are not enough room and supplies. In a sort of cross between Lord of the Flies and Castaway, rational thought gives way to panic and delusion, with the survivors forced to take sides in a coup that will lead to murder.
This book is truly gripping from its earliest pages as Grace deals with her losses and makes choices that will affect her future… if there is a future at all. The lifeboat itself becomes a sadistic microcosm of devolving personalities, and no one is safe as time both drags and races. This imagining of “what if” is both bold and terrifying; you can’t look away once you’ve begun the journey. Mysteries unfold and fates are decided all within one small boat, and it’s a ride you won’t want to miss. Highly recommended.