The Last Lifeboat

Berkley. Jun. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9780593440315. pap. $17. F
Gaynor’s latest historical (after When We Were Young & Brave) is a well-written novel about taking chances and facing loss and fear during a time of uncertainty. It’s based on a real organization, the Children’s Overseas Reception Board (CORB), created during World War II to evacuate children out of England to other countries, including Canada and Australia. Thinking of the future of her children, Lily Nicholls, a widowed London mother, must make the tough decision to send them off with CORB. Alice King is one of the volunteers hired by CORB to escort children on these dangerous voyages, and on her first voyage she is put in charge of Lily’s children. During their Atlantic passage, the ship is torpedoed, forcing passengers into lifeboats, where their hopes of survival dwindle the longer they go without rescue.
VERDICT Gaynor’s immersive novel pairs well with Jessica Mann’s nonfiction book Out of Harm’s Way: The Wartime Evacuation of Children from Britain, in which firsthand accounts and extensive research relate the experiences of children who were removed from their families and taken to foreign countries. Similarly, Julia Kelly’s novel The Lost English Girl takes place at the very beginning of the war when children were being evacuated to the countryside.
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