The Last Lifeboat [Book Review] #NetGalley @BerkleyPub #Survival #HistoricalFiction

Inspired by the sinking of the SS Benares, The Last Lifeboat is a harrowing and compelling story of survival, endurance, and hope.

The Last Lifeboat by Hazel Gaynor

The Last Lifeboat by Hazel Gaynor (cover) Image: soft yellow text and a graphic image of a lifeboat filled with people floats on a blue background

Genre/Categories/Setting: Historical Fiction, WWII, England, Atlantic Ocean, Survival

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My Summary of The Last Lifeboat:

Thanks #NetGalley @BerkleyPub for a complimentary e ARC of #TheLastLifeboat upon my request. All opinions are my own.

Inspired by the sinking of the SS Benares, The Last Lifeboat is a harrowing and compelling story of survival, endurance, and hope.

Determined to do her part in the war effort, Alice, a school teacher, decides to volunteer as a chaperone in the evacuation of children from England. Lily is one of the mothers who decides to evacuate her children aboard the SS Carlisle (the SS Benares renamed). The chaperones and 100 children are aboard the ship when it is torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat. The Last Lifeboat is the imagined story of survival and hope under the most dire conditions.

“Buoyed by the bright morning, she gathers up the tattered fragments of hope the storm had torn from her in the night, and stitches them together into a patchwork of detmination and belief; a blanket of courage big enough to cover them all.”

My Thoughts:

Relentless Tension

Most of this story takes place in the lifeboat as these survivors fight for their lives and cling to hope. It’s emotional, compelling, harrowing, and inspirational. They encounter storms and rough seas, experience mental health challenges, endure the elements, and are gradually weakened by hunger and thirst. Brilliantly written with vivid details, it can be an emotionally difficult and heavy read.


In addition to the hardships, we also see sacrifice, leadership, compassion, nurturing, bonding, hope, and friendship. There’s a lot to love and admire about our main character, Alice.

A Surprise Relationship

One delightful element of the story is the surprising relationship that develops between two of the survivors. I can’t spoil it though!

Recommending The Last Lifeboat

Although a difficult and gritty read, The Last Lifeboat is a page-turner and has earned 5 Stars (one of my few this year) and secured a coveted spot on my best-of-year list for 2023. If you can endure a survival story, this is one of the best!

Content Consideration: grief, death, child death, suicidal ideation, suicide, medical content, survival situations

Other books I’ve reviewed by Hazel Gaynor: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, Last Christmas in Paris (coauthored), Meet Me in Monoco (coauthored)

Related: another lifeboat story is The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom

My Rating:  5  Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Meet the Author of The Last Lifeboat, Hazel Haynor

Author Hazel Gaynor

Hazel Gaynor is an award-winning New York Times, USA Today, Globe and Mail and Irish Times bestselling historical novelist. Her debut novel, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, was awarded the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year, and her novels have since been shortlisted for the 2016 and 2020 Irish Book Awards, the 2019 HWA Gold Crown Award, the 2020 RNA Historical Novel of the Year and the 2021 Grand Prix du Roman Historique. Her latest novel, WHEN WE WERE YOUNG & BRAVE/THE BIRD IN THE BAMBOO CAGE was a national bestseller in the USA. Hazel’s co-written novels with Heather Webb have all been published to critical acclaim, winning and being shortlisted for several international awards.

Hazel was selected as a 2015 WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors. She is published in twenty-five territories and her books have been translated into eighteen languages. Originally from Yorkshire, England, she now lives in Ireland with her husband and two children and is represented by Michelle Brower of Trellis Literary Management, USA.

For more information, visit


Is this new histfic release on your TBR or have you read it?
Have you read other books by Hazel Gaynor?

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