The Last Cruise

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 24 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

Loved this book. Didn’t want it to end.  Highly recommend.  

Love love love.  Incredible book.  Fabulous book club pick too
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The novel relates the stories of various people divided between the culinary staff and other crew and the paying passengers of the cruise ship Queen Isabella on a 14 day cruise sailing from Long Beach, California to Hawaii and return.  The ship was built in the 1950s, is considered outdated, and is scheduled to be scraped upon it's return to California.  On board for the final voyage are the owner of the line to which the ship belongs, his wife, an elderly Israeli string quartet, several key members of the culinary staff and certain members of the ship's crew as well as key passenger characters.  
     The boarding, departure from port and the first several meals prepared for the passengers are described quite well and will resound for those that have taken cruises and are aware of the formalities involved at the beginning.  Certain love affairs begin and others end influenced by a romantic setting at sea that is not present on land.  That problems will develop and cause chaos is a given in a novel set on a cruise ship.  Ms. Christensen's expertise on the preparation of meals for many people is evident and any reader can lick their chops while reading about the preparation of these dining experiences.  
     A disaster strikes and events move swiftly with the reactions of those caught up in it.  What occurs and what is done about it provide a tightly woven and expert description of human beings caught in a situation not imagined before boarding the ship.  My big concern is an ending that leaves many factors up in the air.  Without the probability of a second novel taking up the train of thought the book becomes a slice of life with no realistic conclusions for the reader to mull over.  In the case of what has happened I felt that this was an error in an otherwise well done novel.
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This was not quite what I expected at all.  It tells the story of the last cruise of the old ocean liner the Queen Isabella on her way to Hawaii and the scrapyard.  The book explores the lives and desires of characters both tourist and staff - Christine Thorne, taking a break from her husband and Maine farming with her best friend on this "retro-cruise," Mick Szabo, an overworked Hungarian sous-chef, and Miriam Koslow, an elderly Israeli violinist with a quartet performing at the owner's request.  Their experiences and backstories are absorbing and moving, and evolve and adapt effortlessly with the new people and situations they meet.  The interaction of those who begin as strangers, and develop relationships initially dictated by situations beyond their control, give the story its depth and poignance.  A surprisingly emotional read.  Highly recommended.
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When a cruise goes very, very wrong...Christensen does an excellent job telling this tale from different characters' perspectives, as they face disaster after disaster.  There are the Israeli musicians, a Hungarian chef, and an American woman who comes to accompany a journalist friend, but she learns a lot about herself in the process.  I was rapt with hope that all of them would come through this together.  The subtle ending was a bit confusing, but that may be by design.  Some of the dialogue is a bit awkward, and I've never seen a woman wear yoga pants with wedge sandals, but, all in all, this book has potential.
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The last cruise of the  S.S. Isabella, a luxury trans=Pacific passenger vessel, sets sail for Hawaii. Aboard are the wealthy owners as well as the members of an accomplished and well known Israeli string quartet who've enjoyed  their patronage and friendship for nearly two decades. This may be their last performance as well, - meanwhile, they're still rehearsing the difficult symphony composed by the owners for the occasion. Among the passengers, two stand out - a  journalist looking for a story and the college roommate she's invited to accompany,  a Maine farmer's wife enjoying the unaccustomed luxury and reconsidering her life choices..There's plenty of time for introspection on the voyage,especially after the ship loses power, the crew refuses to work,the living conditions deteriorate, the food runs out, and the owner calls in a helicopter to pluck him off the foundering vessel., But it's the love story of two aging musicians and the friendship between a restless housewife and a burned-out chef  that keeps you enthralled to the last page.
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I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Never having read anything by this author before, I had no idea what to expect. The story slowly drew me in and, before I knew it, I was totally invested in these people and the cruise.  

The idea of a final, retro-style cruise was very intriguing and was presented in a way that made me not only feel like I was there but made me want to be there. The characters felt like complete people to me and were quite a varied cast. I especially liked that the older characters were very vibrant with fully rounded lives. 

Another thing that was very well done in this book was the pacing. It started leisurely and as things began to go awry, the pace of the story picked up as well; it became a page turner I hated to put down. Unfortunately, I’m in a bit of a quandary about the ending. At first I wasn’t sure what happened. But, as I think about it, it makes more sense. This might be a good selection for a book club. 

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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I finished this book last night and am having a hard time reviewing. When I was about halfway through the book- maybe even a quarter actually - I looked up the author to see what else she had. I love when that happens, when I already know I want to read more of someone's books. This feeling drastically changed as I continued... the second half of the book FELT like it was just as good, but it was no longer grabbing me. The wordy descriptions that seemed to such me in for the first half, started to feel like too much and unnecessary. I hate when I am thinking "JUST GET ON WITH IT!!!" Some positive things: I loved the characters. They were very different people but all very REAL feeling people = I feel like  being able to do that is a true talent. I was definitely getting to know them. The plot is pretty unique. I love vacation novels, and a cruise was particularly intriguing to me since I have never been on one. Overall, I liked it enough... JUST enough.. but I was feeling satisfied when I finished. I felt like some of it was a waste of time, especially with the way everything was resolved. 2.5 stars rounded up.
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THE LAST CRUISE was most definitely not a puff piece for the luxury cruise industry, but it was an interesting character study.  It had elements of Ann Patchett's (more elegantly written) BEL CANTO and perhaps a bit of Catherine Ann Porter's SHIP OF FOOLS, but in essence, it was a very "good read" with contemporary characters evaluating their professions and their relationships.

The narrative drove the character's introspection so the author didn't hit you over the head with philosophizing. A major story arc was a labor dispute on the cruise ship and I felt the plot demanded a bit more insight in to the laborer's perspective, but that was not a direction the author chose to take.

After a slow start for me, I found THE LAST CRUISE to be a "page-turner" and I enjoyed it very much.  A little more complexity to the characters, and more elegance to the language and I would have upped my rating to four stars.

Netgalley provided me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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The descriptions really made this book come alive, and I enjoyed the way the characters developed, The pace was a little slow at times, but I didn't really mind. That being said, I won't be signing up to go on a cruise any time soon!
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Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

4 strong stars! Maybe even 4.5!

Follow three main characters: Christine, an American cruising along for fun with her friend, Mick, a chef on board, and Miriam, part of a string quartet on board - as they climb aboard The Isabelle for a cruise to Hawaii!

Written with such a vivid vocabulary that you’re really able to picture everything that is going on, I felt like I could watch it unfold in my mind like a movie. This book was perfectly descriptive with a variety of characters, so there are many people different readers may relate to as they read. With a solid amount of drama, thrills, romance & adventure, this is going to be must-read of Summer 2018! Out in July!
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If you never read a single news story about a cruise and still considering this as an option for a vacation…there’s this book, to get that silly notion right out of your brain. Funnily enough, until about midway through The Last Cruise really is a dream vacation. The last encore voyage of a luxury cruise ship Queen Isabella decked out in mid century glamour, free of modern world distractions, gourmet meals, first class entertainment, impeccable service, elite clientele, no kids, no wifi. Just top shelf luxury in the Pacific. And then you reach midway through juncture and it all just Titanics (yes, I used that as a verb, check me out) into a spectacular snowballing snafu. Because, of course, how can such gorgeous artifice sustain itself, not with its dreamy perfection, not with its upstairs/downstairs dynamic and certainly not if weather has a thing to say about it all. And, of course, like all boat stories, this one is a character driven drama, kinda of a steamy dish really (especially apt considering how much of the book is spent describing food, preparation, injection obtaining, etc.), throw in a lot of diverse ingredients of varied  pedigrees, stir, simmer initially then turn it up…gives new definition to a potboiler. The traditional definition definitely doesn’t apply here, although I’m not familiar with author’s oeuvre (acclaimed and PEN Faulkner winning sounds auspicious enough), this doesn’t read like it’s phoned in at all, in fact it’s very good. It’s a sort of what a really good women’s fiction would read like, almost. Yes, technically one of the leads is male, but it has that estrogen driven narrative, kind of sort of, love at high seas and belated self discoveries made, etc. Thing is, though, it’s just so exceptionally well written, it draws you in completely, and for a book to turn off my brain long enough to offer a genuinely immersive experience is pretty special and unusual enough. In fact, that’s probably why I didn’t love the ending, appreciated it from an artistic perspective, but just...wanted more? More definitive? Happier? Oh I refuse to become one of those readers who require happy endings to enjoy a story, so I’m just gonna have to enjoy what the author put down and trust her literary acumen and discernment. Other than that, terrifically developed characters, utterly engaging narrative, this was a very enjoyable read. If Titanic didn’t do the trick, nor any of the recent ones like Costa Concordia, maybe this book will…there’s a reason cruise ships storylines so often feature a word disaster in them. Makes for a great story, though, apparently. Thanks Netgalley.
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Great book. Really unique characters thrown together in a situation that goes south fast. And oh, what an ambiguous ending! (At least it's KIND OF ambiguous...I think there's enough foreshadowing to know where things are headed next...but maybe not). (I wish I knew other people who had just finished reading this book just so we could discuss the ending together)

My issues with the book were really all editorial in nature. In my opinion, the first part of the book drags (Like the part with Christine at the aquarium). Also we go VERY deep on the topics of food and music. Normally, I would have loved this attention to detail and rich description. However, when I got to the final third of the book I realized that there was a whole OTHER story I wanted to hear about and other characters I wanted to know, but I wasn't going to get to because we had spent so much time talking things like how to roast a quail. That was frustrating.

For example, Mick's exchange with Sidney would have been even cooler if I could have remembered anything about that character being introduced earlier in the book. Same with Kimmie. She's a major player in the end of the book, and we learn some sad facts about her story then, but that would have had even more impact to spread out and go deeper on that information--to have us care about Kimmie BEFORE we realize that she's got an important role to play in the larger narrative.

These are all minor quibbles though. Overall, I enjoyed the book very much. Thanks to the author and NetGalley for granting me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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The diverse cast of characters of The Last Cruise find themselves on a retiring cruise liner, The Queen Isabella, for her final voyage -- a luxury trip dedicated to celebrating days past, the glamour, sexiness, and simplicity of the 50's. The characters however, take on-board their modern day baggage: the demand of a modern day job, the labor practices of a large faceless profit driven corporation, desire for greatness, a penchant for change.  What unfolds two worlds clashing, with unforgiving mother nature popping in for some added spice. 

I loved the telling of one story through several sets of eyes, but not over relying on the connection between them. The story really propels forward by the strength of each character, and has an enjoyable layered feeling to it. It's a slow and steady read, but has great moments of mystery, romance, thrill, and whatever you call the "find yourself" genre.  

At times, the writing, especially describing feelings was a bit much. I think it was trying to explain complex feelings lyrically, but I found much of that to fall flat, especially in the first third of the book. I'm glad I stuck with it though, because I found it to get a lot better. 

Some favorite lines 

"Choke quietly, I'm trying to sleep"

"He was one of those guys who watch you quietly while you dug yourself deeper into the weeds, just stood there seeming to grow bigger and bigger, swelling with power and swaying slightly like a king cobra, his tongue flicking in and out, while you burned yourself on a handle and f****d up the timing of a filet of expensive fish and dropped the ladle of sauce on your foot, then he struck like lighting and stopped your breathing with toxic venom and your eyes bugged out and you died. Or so the rumors went."
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Read in prepub. Due out July 2018.  Christensen always creates interesting, fully formed characters that do interesting things and this book was no exception.  In an author less skilled than Christensen the story could have traveled a typical thriller-type path.  All the elements are there:  action takes place on a cruise ship making its final voyage, characters from different walks of life thrown together, a crisis, but Christensen uses these elements to tell a story about the characters that resists cliche and the ending doesn't take the easy way out.  Good stuff, add it to your TBR list.
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The Last Cruise is a solid, self aware novel set on the sunset voyage of the Queen Isabella. Kate Christensen's characters make the novel stand out. They spread beyond one's expectations of the typical set of people who would go on an adults only mid-century themed luxury journey. The shifting perspectives of Christine, Mick, and Miriam add to the narrative in unexpected ways, crossing class and social boundaries to enrich the tale when things go awry on the vessel.
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I found this book  both absorbing and frustrating. I have like Kate Christensen's other novels and I enjoyed this one too. I will not be going on a cruise anytime soon.
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Christensen presents a quietly compelling portrait of what happens when two worlds clash, sidestepping easy assumptions and stereotypes about class and privilege. The wrong way to approach this book is to wait for something big to happen, as the danger that is frequently alluded to in the opening pages is a very long time coming. However, readers who have the patience to just go along for the ride, like the passengers on the once-splendid Queen Isabella, will be rewarded with a sharp, insightful story about flawed humans in crisis.
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A wonderful read. I wasn't sure what to expect but this one really surprised me. Lovely read!
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Oh what a book!  Is it romance, is it a mystery, is it a thriller or is it all three?  Yes yes and yes

I really enjoyed this book and I encourage everyone who wants to be entertained to pick this bad boy up. 

My thanks to Netgalley and Doubleday for this advanced readers copy.
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The Last Cruise: A Novel by [Christensen, Kate]

Very well done. Unique, enjoyable.

Review copy provided by publisher.
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