Monday, May 21, 2012

*The Lifeboat* by Charlotte Rogan - A book review

I picked up The Lifeboat because I have always been fascinated by shipwreck stories; there is something in the joining of a terrible need to survive juxtaposed the vast emptiness of the ocean that intrigues me. I'd also just finished Lauren Hillenbrand's Unbroken, so I figured this would perhaps be a kindred novel, if only a second cousin, once moved, from that nonfiction masterpiece.

Having finished the novel, I can say that Ms. Rogan's prose is quite lovely, and she is skillful in her use of metaphor, simile, symbol, and motif; the language is elevated, engaging and quite interesting in its own right. Troublesomely, however, I just can't like this novel, mostly because I just don't like Grace.

I wondered as I read the novel if perhaps the protagonist was named for the hero of Margaret Atwood's novel Alias Grace - I can certainly see some similarities between the women - but I LIKED Grace, despite her somewhat shadowy (and occasionally murderous) tendencies. Rogan's Grace, however, seems to be passively watching her life pass her by, shamelessly scheming to attract the attention of her wealthy husband by stealing him from his promised fiancee, while allowing herself to be steered into the murder of Mr. Hardie. As a reader, I wanted her convicted of being a really rotten human being at the same time that I wanted her acquitted of the crime.

Maybe it's the fact that I've been required to survive when I would rather have thrown in the towel myself and run for the hills. Maybe it's the torture of seeing so many children who are living below their worth because selfish parents passively allow life to happen to them. Maybe it's constantly watching people waste the precious gift of life they've been given in favor of the latest episode of "The Bachelor..." Or maybe I just can't stand people who would rather follow the crowd and do what they know to be wrong rather than standing up for what they know to be right. Maybe it's all of that, put in a blender and chopped into a fine smoothie of distaste....

All in all, this leads to what is a perhaps slightly complex review. I appreciate this novel for its use of language & its complexity. I could teach it because it has the elements needed to make a "good' study., but I'd really prefer never to read it again because I hope never to "meet" up with Grace again. Instead, I'd rather send a letter to her attorney telling him to rescind his proposal...

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