Cover Image: The Last Lifeboat

The Last Lifeboat

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Member Reviews

When the government encouraged families during World War II to send their children on escorted ships across the Atlantic to Canada, no one ever dreamed they would be torpedoed and lost at sea. The Last Lifeboat tells of the lives of the escorts, children, and mothers who desperately waited to be rescued or hear news of their children. Alice King, a former teacher, is one who applied to escort the children to Canada. She and the children are excited about being on such an amazing ship and their “vacation” to Canada. But when the ship is torpedoed, Alice finds herself on a lifeboat with 6 children and 29 adults. Being the only woman on board, Alice takes the kids under her wing and becomes fiercely protective of them. They find courage they didn’t know they had, and make bonds that last a lifetime. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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3 stars

An informative and eye-opening look into an important part of history.  

I enjoyed learning about the WWII CORB (children’s overseas reception board) organization.  This British government organization evacuated children in danger of bombing and violence bringing them to live with families in other countries.  British parents could register their children with the organization to send them overseas with a chaperone to stay with volunteer families in Canada, Australia and other countries to wait out the wartime threats.   

Although this is a harrowing and horrific story, I didn’t feel the heaviness or emotion that should have been there.  The story unfolded in a lighter, less gritty way which kept me from connecting and feeling invested.  There was a “cuteness” to the writing and characters that didn’t work for me.   I was interested and curious to learn about this time in history but had no connection to the characters.  Were there emotional moments?  Yes.   Did this pull at my heartstrings like it should have?  No.  There were too many “cutesy” type moments which ruined the heaviness and reality of the times.  

This novel also lacked atmosphere.  I never felt the atmospheric pull of the story. This should have been enveloping me, making me feel lost at sea with the characters.  

The characters felt cliche and the storyline somewhat predictable.  Several times I felt bored and wanted to skim read pages to get to something that mattered.  

Overall, I’m happy I read this to educate myself on a part of history I knew nothing about.  However, I wouldn’t recommend it as I felt it was too light and cute to share the true reality of the times.

Thank you to the publisher for my review copy!
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The Last Lifeboat was the perfect historical fiction read for me, after reading a whole lot of thrillers in a row. I loved the way the story unfolded between two characters perspectives, the mother of two children who had to make a very difficult choice to send her children for safekeeping during war, and the young teacher who volunteered as escort to get the children safely to their temporary home. Lily and Alice started out as strangers, and each had lived very different lifestyles, but by the end of the story, they had an unbreakable bond many could not even imagine. Gaynor's descriptive writing, and historically based research-backed details allow readers to lose themselves in the story, while feeling all the heartbreak and emotions right along side the characters. This is a story of female strength, family resilience, and the power of kindness and friendship to get through unimaginable, impossible situations. Well-written and full of heart, this story will stay with me for a very long time.
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I was so captivated by this story. I had read many books about the children in London sent out to the countryside during the Blitz of WWII, but was unfamiliar with the seavac program where kids were sent overseas. Gaynor highlights a tragedy with one of those ships that was struck by a Nazi Uboat and only a small number of children survived. It was fascinating to read about and I appreciated the author's note at the end clarifying her inspiration and which bits were pulled from facts. 

I loved how Gaynor alternated what was happening in the actual lifeboat with a few of the families on land. If we stayed at sea the whole time I think I would have become a bit bored. As it was, however, I was interested in all the characters and was drawn in to the whole devastating story. I wept and cheered right along with the characters. This one gets an easy 5 stars from me.
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A powerful story about the will to survive against terrible odds. Excellent strong female characters, The author did great research and the story just flows. I hope this becomes a movie. 4.5 stars
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Not my usual genre, but I totally enjoyed reading this fiction story based off a true story. The characters are written well and the story flows comfortably. At first I worried that I would not like then ending since it was based on a true tale, but enough of the story and bravery of the children warmed my heart. Parents trying to  send their children  to escape a war in uncertain times. Heartbreak and courage make for a story to remember.
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It is September 1940 and the lives of two British women are about to cross.  Alice likes nothing better that to immerse  herself in a book when she is spurred by wartime events to leave  her position as teacher and librarian in Kent, and do something to help the war effort. She is accepted by Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB) as an escort for children who are being evacuated to Canada and Australia ahead of a imminent Nazi invasion. In London, Lily, a grieving widow with two children, Georgie and Arthur, is torn with despair over the decision to evacuate her children. The evacuation convoys traversed the Atlantic, which was plagued by the Nazi u boats that hunted any vessel associated with the Allies.  Based on fact, this is the account of the fictional the ocean liner Carlisle, which was torpedoed at night, when the children were in bed below decks, and many of the adults were occupied on the upper decks.  Chaos ensued with the passengers scrambling for the lifeboats. As the sun rises, those in Alice's life boat find they are alone. Alice is asked to take charge of the six children while her fellow survivors, which include include members of the crew and various passengers, sort out the food, water, and jobs. Storms, sun, starvation, and sickness take their toll as it appears no one is looking for them. Back in England, Lily and Alice's sister, Kitty, do not believe their family members have been lost. They band together and  advocate that there is a missing 12th life boat and the search needs to continue. Watch for personal details such as a white feather letter from the children,  Billy's marble, and the ID numbers #85 and #72 of the Mass Observation Diarists.  Survival through community is a theme, as is the need to keep moving, and not look back. This the first book I've read by Hazel Gaynor, and it will definitely not be my last.
#TheLastLifeboat #NetGalley
Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group and Netgalley for the digital arc.
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The Last Lifeboat will send chills up your spine as you face the water in the beginning of the book. This story is well told by two POVs, Alice and Lily and is based on a true story. Gaynor brings these women and children to life. Well done!

Links to come.
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Joan is a widow who has been unable to recover from her husband's death four years ago. As she takes steps to recover she opens her home and her heart to others in need. A great story about overcoming loss and moving on.
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𝙄𝙣𝙨𝙥𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙙 𝙗𝙮 𝙖 𝙧𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙧𝙠𝙖𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙚 𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙮, 𝙖 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙚𝙖𝙘𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙚𝙫𝙖𝙘𝙪𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙨 𝙘𝙝𝙞𝙡𝙙𝙧𝙚𝙣 𝙩𝙤 𝙨𝙖𝙛𝙚𝙩𝙮 𝙖𝙘𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙨 𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙡𝙤𝙪𝙨 𝙬𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨, 𝙞𝙣 𝙖 𝙢𝙤𝙫𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙪𝙢𝙥𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙩 𝙣𝙚𝙬 𝙣𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙡.

When I got back into reading, I was always picking up historical fiction. Lately, I haven’t been reading much so I was excited when I was provided an early copy from the publisher. The synopsis sounded so interesting and emotional. 

WWII is probably my favorite era to read about when I pick up historical fiction. This one is inspired by a true story about a ship carrying British children evacuees to Canada. Alice King is a teacher who decided to chaperone this voyage with children on board. Two of those children belong to Lily Nichols, a recently widowed mother. 

This story was beautifully written and told. I loved this author’s way of storytelling. Alice and Lily were both likable and I liked the alternating POVs. My blood was boiling when a torpedo hit the ship, Alice and the surviving children were saved by a lifeboat… where they spent the next few days at sea. 

Honestly, I went into this one not expecting to love it. I just haven’t really cared for this genre lately, but I really enjoyed this. It was moving, emotional, and so compelling. This is a story that will stick with you for a while, it was very memorable. I learned a lot about the real events with this story, and it breaks my heart for the families who were affected. I would highly recommend picking this one up. 

Thank you so much NetGalley and Berkley for the review eARC and PRH Audio for the ALC in exchange for my honest review! 

•𝗧𝗪/𝗖𝗪: Child Death, Death, Grief, Suicidal Thoughts, Suicide, and Medical Content
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This historical fiction is a story of war,
hope and survival. Lily was a wife, a mother and a school teacher but when war takes over the country she needs to find the strength within to do what she can to help save a boat full of children. I read a lot of historical fiction but this as one story I never read about before.

Huge thank you to @berkleypub @berittalksbooks @thephdivabooks  @dg_reads and @netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for the advanced copy of The Last Lifeboat by Hazel Gaynor. 

I loved this book. I am a huge fan of historical fiction, which generally means I've also read a lot about WWII. And what I loved about this book is that it was a side of WWII I didn't really know much about. It is inspired by a true story of a young teacher who evacuates children to safety across the Atlantic, from Britain to Canada.. But when a Nazi U-boat torpedoes the S. S. Carlisle carrying a ship of these children, our two main characters Alice and Lily find their lives fully entwined in the most harrowing way. 

I really can't imagine finding the bravery of either of these women. To put your own life at risk in order to help shepherd these children to safety. Or (even harder for me as a mom to three), to send your children across the world in the hopes that they will stay safe from the war all around you. It just breaks my heart even contemplating that one! 

I highly recommend reading this book. I've already purchased copies for family and friends!
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Thank you @berkleypub for the free book and @prhaudio for the audio version as well. #penguinrandomhousepartner 
#berkleypartner #berkley #berkleybookstagram

In an effort to keep their children safe from German bombs and other effects of war, many British parents decide to evacuate their children to live safely in other countries during the war. 

LILY is a widowed mom, who makes the agonizing decision to send her two children to a place where they should be safe, even though she will miss them terribly. 

ALICE is excited to be selected as a chaperone on the S.S. Carlisle and she is assigned to a small group of children. Lily meets Alice briefly as she entrusts her children into her care. 

Soon Alice and several other chaperones and children leave on the S.S.Carlisle as they voyage to Canada. The first few days pass uneventfully, but when the ship is hit by a torpedo, everyone is forced to evacuate the ship. Chaperones and children are not necessarily together as people rush toward the lifeboats. Some people fall into the churning waters and are swept away. Others never make it off of the ship. Alice makes it into the last lifeboat along with 6 children and 29 men. As search parties rescue survivors, they miss the last lifeboat, which has drifted farther away than anyone realized. 

The page-turner moves at a good pace as it unfolds through two perspectives: Lily, as she mourns and worries at home, and Alice as she floats for days on a lifeboat and loses all hope of being rescued. I enjoyed Alice’s perspective more and felt I was right there with her as she suffered through endless days, dehydration, hallucinations, and more. Once I started this book, I could not put it down!
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What a gripping story, set in WWII England in 1940.  As the British public fears an invasion by Hitler, in addition to the horrible bombing of civilians, parents are faced with the choice to evacuate their children.  In this work of historical fiction, based in the real life sinking of the SS City of Benares, children, called seavacuees, are sent overseas to safety.  The portrayal of Lily, and her agonizing over whether to send her children to safety, is heartrending.  Alice is the main character in the story, a volunteer looking to escape her humdrum existence, finding more than she expected as she embarks on the journey with the children.  I cried, I bit my lips in anxiousness, and just couldn’t put the book down.  Highly recommended.  Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
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Alice has had a shock. She has found a downed airman and he dies right in front of her. From then on, she is determined to do her part in the war. She decides to escort a group of children away from the bombing in London to safer shores.

Lilly is a widowed mother of two. She makes the horrendous decision to send her children to a safe place, away from the blitz in London. Little does she know her life will be forever changed.

The ship carrying these children and Alice is torpedoed after their navy escort leaves them unattended. You can just imagine the heartbreak. A few manage to get on a life boat. It is a lifeboat not counted. So it stays for days out a sea. What these children and Alice experience is horrendous. And you will need to read this to see exactly how they are rescued…YOU WILL NOT BE SORRY!

Talk about an emotional read. This novel unravels you! I cannot imagine being a mother and having to make a decision to send my children away. And then not be able to save them. This book pulls at every heart string you have. And to know it is based on real life events. GEEZ!

Hazel Gaynor has done it again!

Need a fabulous story based on real events…THIS IS IT! Grab your copy today.

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.
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In 1940, as the Germans were breathing down English necks, the British government decided to evacuate children off the island completely. The SS City of Benares set sail to Canada in September, carrying 123 children known as sea-vacs. Their parents were assured that a convoy of warships would escort the steamer, as German U-boats heavily patrolled the Atlantic. Instead, the warships abandoned the steamer halfway through, and the Germans attacked. Ninety-eight children were killed. In the confusion, the lifeboats were miscounted. No one realized that boat #12 hadn’t been recovered. With six boys, one woman, and 39 men, the boat sailed for eight days before being spotted. 

This gripping saga inspired historical fiction author Hazel Gaynor’s latest novel, The Last Lifeboat. In her telling, the S.S. Carlisle is the doomed ship… and two women are forever changed. Alice King, looking for a way to contribute to the war effort, volunteers to escort children to Canada on the ship. And widowed Lily Nichols, hiding a sad secret, agrees to send her beloved son and daughter to strangers overseas. 

For the rest of the review, click on the link below.
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This was a very powerful book about the human nature and perseverance. I love historical fiction and this is one that I will be adding to my recommended lists!
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Alice King is a teacher and librarian who lives a sheltered life with her mother in Kent, while her younger sister Kitty lives a much more glamorous life in London. Alice longs to do something to help the war effort but isn't sure what she can contribute, until she hears about the need for escorts to accompany English children being evacuated to other British Commonwealth countries as a part of Operation Pied Piper. She is accepted as an escort and looks forward to finally having an adventure. In London, war widow Lily Nichols agonizes over whether to evacuate her children, eventually opting to trust the government and send her children on one of the evacuation ships. But disaster strikes a few days into the voyage, and the two women along with Alice's sister fight to save the evacuated children.
Based on a true story about the SS City of Benares, part of a fleet traveling from Britain to Canada and back. The convoy was torpedoed by a German U-boat in September 1940 after their military escort turned back toward Britain. The ship sank and 35 people including a number of children spent a week in a lifeboat before they were rescued. If you know the story of the Pied Piper, it would be hard to come up with a more ill-omened name. Well-researched, riveting reading. Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction.
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4.5 stars rounded up.
Such a captivating yet heartbreaking and intense tear jerker that touches you so much more once you find out it's based on a true story. Beautifully written details. Highly recommend if you are a fan of historical WWII fiction. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for this eARC.
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I couldn't put The Last Lifeboat down.  It is beautiful, heartbreaking, and absolutely wonderful.  I have waited to attempt a review because I couldn't come up with the words to do it justice, and I still can't.

The Last Lifeboat is told in two POVs, a mother of two children that were evacuated from England and a young woman that is a chaperone on the children's evacuation ship.  It shows the sacrifices that people made during the war, and the strength they had when it would be so easy to just give up.

The Last Lifeboat reminded me a lot of The Nightingale.  I highly recommend The Last Lifeboat to historical fiction fans, specifically those that enjoy WWII novels.

Thank you to Berkeley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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