Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat Rises Above
Melanie Smith of Southport, Ellie Powers of Fairfield with Charlotte Rogan
“This is new to me,” Charlotte Rogan says, cueing in her pre-speech nerves before the small crowd of people gathered to hear her speak at the Southport home of Alloe and John Stowe. An opener like this is usually enough to make an audience squirm, wondering what mess of a speech they’re in for. But Rogan has the confidence of a stage actor. Her tone is confessional, like she’s sitting with friends over coffee.
Though, there’s not a whole lot that Rogan needs to feel nervous about. The 57 year-old Westport resident has already received rave reviews for her book, The Lifeboat, including from the New York Times, People, and across the pond from The Guardian. When she’s having a bad day, all she needs for a quick pick-me-up is a glance at the article from The Sunday Times, which calls her book, “as compelling as it is profound.”
In The Lifeboat, we enter the story adrift in a lifeboat with Grace Winters and thirty-nine others, in the middle of the Atlantic. We soon find out that Grace is looking back on the events of the book because, after finally being rescued, she is on trial for her life. Bit by bit, the pieces fall together. Grace is young woman, returning back home to America after she and her husband have just eloped in Europe. It is 1914 and Europe is on the brink of war. Following an explosion aboard The Empress Alexandra, Grace finds herself in a too-crowded lifeboat, being lowered into the dark waters below. You’d think that once she’s in a lifeboat, she’s home free. Not exactly. Grace might not be so lucky. But as readers, we’ve hit the jackpot.
The Lifeboat is not just a story about survival. Alloe Stowe, clearly thrilled to be hosting an event with Charlotte, was bowled over after reading the book. She gushes, “I have not read a book that has covered so many themes.” Some of these themes include feminism and power. No surprise, once you learn about Rogan’s backstory.
As student at Princeton, in one of the first classes that allowed females, Rogan learned her first inklings that opinions could be gender-based. She found herself in rooms filled with men, being asked her opinion. All eyes on her. She felt like she had to speak for half of the population and that’d she’d probably say something wrong. How’s that for pressure?
After her time at Princeton, she worked in the engineering and architectural fields before staying home to raise her triplets. During this time, she became a “closet writer”—not telling her friends how she spent her precious hours to herself, or ever showing them her previous, completed novels. Books that she’s glad have never seen the light of day.
Thankfully, The Lifeboat has. Rogan is staying mum on the topic of her next book. But, that’s fine—because The Lifeboat has got us hooked. Whatever she choses to write next, we’re sure we’ll be onboard.