I was really attracted to the idea of this book: 39 passengers on a lifeboat struggling for survival, making tough choices, and operating within a tricky ethical and moral framework.
But the book didn’t live up to its promise. The characters were poorly developed, and I simply didn’t care about them. The single first-person narrative structure lessened the reader’s ability to interpret the situation from multiple points of view. This problem is worsened by the narrator being a dull, submissive, self-centred bore. There are too many flashbacks to the time prior to the sinking of the ship, and too much of the story is set after the final passengers have been rescued. The dilemmas were framed in the predominantly Christian ethical framework of the early 20th century, which was very limiting. And, predictably, there was a church figure amongst the passengers on the lifeboat. Even reading that last sentence alone, you can probably guess his fate.
This is a short book, but it was a struggle to plough through. It had enjoyable moments and passages, but the narrative structure of the story and the period in which it was set both conspired to constrict the moral and ethical superstructure to such an extent that it ceased to be interesting.
In summary, the premise is great, but the execution is poor.
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