In an effort to maybe, perhaps, hopefully get caught up on all the books I haven’t reviewed, I’m planning to start doing mini-reviews every couple of weeks for books that I read but didn’t have much to say about. If you have more specific questions about any of this week’s titles, leave them in the comments!
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life. In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die. As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she’d found. Will she pay any price to keep it? (Source)
Grace Winter is fabulously unreliable and twisty narrator. While I don’t want to spoil anything about The Lifeboat, I think it’s safe to say that as the narrative progresses it becomes more and more clear that the story Grace is presents is skewed in some unexpected ways. Her space on the Emperess Alexandra and the lifeboat are not simply matters of chance. I would love to have read this book with a book club because there are just so many juicy things to discuss, both about the choices those in the lifeboat are forced to make and about Grace herself. I thought this one was really good.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill. (Source)
It might actually be a little unfair to call Richard Papen, the first person narrator of The Secret History, unreliable. More often, he is forced to play the straight man against the increasingly erratic behavior of his classmates. He leaves out perspective on events because they refuse to include him, leaving us as readers both insiders and outsiders to the events that lead up to a murder revealed in the prologue. In any case, The Secret History was a fantastically paced mystery and psychological exploration set in one of my favorite places, a secluded liberal arts college, that I deeply enjoyed.
Disclosure: The Lifeboat came from the library; I purchased The Secret History.