Author: Rebecca Connolly
Published: April 2022 by Shadow Mountain
Category: Historical Fiction based on fact
Shortly after midnight on April 15, 1912, the captain of the Carpathia, Arthur Rostron, wakes to a distress signal from the Titanic, which has struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage. Though information is scarce, Rostron leaps into action, determined to answer the call for help. But the Carpathia is more than four hours away, and there are more questions than answers: Will his ship hold together if pushed to never-before-tested speeds? What if he also strikes an iceberg? And with the freezing temperatures, will there be any survivors by the time the Carpathia arrives?
Much has been written about the Titanic so it was a refreshing change to have the story told from the alternating viewpoints of Captain Arthur Rostron of the RMS Carpathia, and Kate Connolly, a third class passenger on the Titanic, leaving Ireland to start a new life in New York with her sister. The harrowing events on the Titanic and in the lifeboat unfold from Kate’s perspective.
Although the Carpathia has gone down in history for answering the distress call and rescuing hundreds of passengers from the Titanic, I haven’t seen anything written about the ship and her crew. A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice, with the obviously meticulous research by the author, gives a parallel view of events.
Groaning as the lights in his cabin suddenly flicked on, Arthur closed his eyes, trying for patience in spite of his weariness. “First Officer Dean, knocking before entering is generally—“
“It’s the Titanic, sir,” Dean interrupted, his voice nearing a frantic pace and pitch. “We’ve just received an urgent distress message. She’s struck ice and is sinking fast. She requires immediate assistance.”
It was what?
Instantly alert, Arthur sat up and swung his legs over the bed. He stared at his first officer. Dean was by no means an alarmist, but he looked as terrified as though they themselves had struck ice.
The same horror, the same cold depth, suddenly sank into Arthur’s stomach.
And that decided everything.
Because this is a true story of courage and selflessness, told beautifully with excellent characterisations of real people, it evokes a range of emotions — haunting, heartbreaking and poignant, to mention a few. Captain Rostron, with his crew supporting him, took the momentous decision to turn his ship around, pushing her to her limits, in order to reach the Titanic as soon as possible.
The atmosphere during the rescue of chaos, horror and despair is intense. It’s an unimaginable scenario, impossible to comprehend how the survivors coped or the horrendous way so many lives were lost. Rebecca Connolly writes this character driven story wonderfully, movingly and respectfully, without presenting the tragedy in a sensational way.
I appreciated the fact that much of this novel is based on fact with a great attention to detail, and was glad to learn more about the Carpathia, Captain Rostron, the crew and their history. The dual perspectives of Captain Rostron and Kate Connolly are woven together seamlessly and the author portrays emotions and decision taking in a such a way that allows complete empathy with the characters.
The quotes added between chapters was an inspired touch.
“No one relinquished their utmost efforts. Loyally and cheerfully every member of the crew, both officers and men, gave of their best. Doctors, pursers, steward—even the little bell-boys—all entertained no thought of rest from the moment I issued my first orders until we had landed the survivors in New York.”
—Captain Arthur Rostron,
Home from the Sea, 1931
I saw this review on The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog, and knew A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice was a book I wanted to read and I’m so glad I did.
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I was born once upon a time, and I started making up stories right away. Eventually, I started writing them down, and never stopped! I have a day job, which gets in the way of my writing, but it pays the bills so I CAN write, so I guess that’s okay! I am a bookworm, which I think is key to being a writer, and I am always looking for inspiration! I live in Indiana, am obsessed with hot chocolate, and I am on track to be the best aunt in the world.