Posts Tagged ‘Waterstones 11 2012’

The Lifeboat – Charlotte Rogan

Posted in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Proofs on March 13th, 2012 by admin – 7 Comments

The Lifeboat

Published in the US by

Little, Brown and Company

Pub Date: April 03, 2012

ISBN: 9780316185905

 

Published in the UK
29/03/2012

Publisher
Virago Press Ltd

My Rating = 5 Stars!

The Lifeboat is another choice from Waterstones Eleven, eleven debut novels which they have earmaked for commercial success and critical acclaim in 2012.  This is my fourth read from the selection and yet another one which I thoroughly enjoyed, even on a par with The Snow Child which is high praise indeed.

Set in 1914, most of the action, or should that read “inaction”, takes place on a lifeboat stranded in the Atlantic Ocean following the sinking of the Empress Alexandra five days after her depature from Liverpool.  Our narrator, newly wed Grace Winter, has written an account of her experiences during three long and exhausting weeks spent aboard the overladen vessel – an account which could once more mean the difference between life and death for her as she now stands trial for murder.  Some of her fellow passengers didn’t survive – some jumped and some may have been pushed but Grace’s involvement is rather unclear and she isn’t the most reliable of narrators.  What is crystal clear though is that the reader will question what he or she would do in a similar situation, how far would we go to survive?

This is one of those novels you will want all your friends to read so you can discuss it afterwards and share your views.  Underneath the deceptively simple prose lies a multilayered entity which sucks in the reader from the opening pages.  Grace is an interesting character, flawed and human but does her devious streak extend to murder?  Lifeboat No 14 is predominantly female with 30 women, 8 men and 1 child and half of the men end up perishing in the ocean.  The whole power struggle between Hardie (the ship’s crewman) and Mrs Grant mirrors women’s struggle for emancipation and Grace tries her best to steer a middle course between the two.  However when they’re back on terra firma facing a murder accusation, it’s back to normality, to a male dominated society so everything changes.

Charlotte Rogan wrote the first draft of The Lifeboat 10 years ago and she has been writing whilst raising triplets so she has had little in the way of spare time.  I, for one, am glad that she decided to revisit this novel and set it loose on us readers - grab your lifejackets or at least have plenty of snacks to sustain you as you will be enthralled by this compelling debut.

My thanks to Net Galley for allowing me to review a digital proof of The Lifeboat.

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Signs of Life – Anna Raverat

Posted in Contemporary Fiction on February 24th, 2012 by admin – 4 Comments

Signs of Life

Published
12/04/2012

Publisher
Picador

Signs of Life by Anna Raverat is one of Waterstones’ 11 for 2012, their list of highly recommended debut novels.  Last year’s picks included The Tiger’s Wife (Orange Prizewinner) and Pigeon English (Man Booker shortlist) so does this bode well for Ms Raverat’s first novel?

Well, I loved Signs of Life and I think it must be acknowledged that it is an extremely brave debut novel given that its narrator, Rachel, is extremely unlikeable.  It’s not that she’s been involved in war crimes or cruelty  to animals, quite the opposite as she “appears” to be a bit of a flake, self-obsessed, drifting along and letting others carry the can while she continues sitting at her desk navel-gazing.  Not sounding awfully exciting so far…

What I did find fascinating though was the way in which Rachel gradually releases her history to us, strand by strand and what a tangled web she weaves.  Ten years ago she had an affair with disastrous consequences and we won’t get to the crux of the whole “affair” until she has sorted through all the other events in a stream of consciousness style, flitting from past to present, from mundane to deathly serious.

She controls what the reader knows whilst claiming to have been used as a pawn and throughout the novel I found her quite unnerving on a par with Barbara from Notes on a Scandal, another obnoxious yet fascinating character.  She wants to be honest but she frequently alludes to the fact that honesty and truth are impossible to achieve.

If you are enthralled by unlikeable, unreliable narrators and you don’t mind being manipulated and dangled on a string, then you will be captivated by this tense, edgy novel – an excellent debut.

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