Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru, Last week I was at a party where the Sea Cliff Civic Association honored Lorraine Garry on her new baby and Laura Parker Russo on her recent marriage. Amidst all the toasting and gaiety, someone mentioned having just read a much acclaimed new novel by a first time author. The theme reminded me of the Titanic but I can't remember the title. Have you read it and if so, would you recommend it? Nautical Enthusiast

 Dear Nautical, You might want to curb your enthusiasm for the sea after reading this novel: THE LIFEBOAT by Charlotte Rogan. Set in 1914 , two years after the sinking of the Titanic, the story opens with the trial of a young survivor of another shipping disaster. Grace Winter, recently married to a wealthy banker, had been returning to New York aboard the ocean liner Empress Alexandra to meet his family when a huge explosion destroyed the ship and left only a handful of survivors, forty of whom end up in Lifeboat 14. It soon becomes apparent that some will have to die for the rest to survive. The power struggle that ensues pits the formidable crewman Hardie against the equally formidable matron Mrs. Grant. Gender, class, money, history, personality…. all play roles in determining the outcome, but the most fascinating aspect of the story is Grace's changing version of what actually happened before, during, and after their three weeks lost at sea. While we are never sure of the truth of any of her testimony, the question that truly confounds us is "does Grace herself know the truth?" While short (267 pages), this is an emotionally exhausting book to read but also strangely enjoyable as we delve into the psyche of a genuine survivor.

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