I saw this book recommended on The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review blog. Indeed, Davida recommended it as her summer must read book in the recent collaboration with Reading Ladies which I also took part in. You can read that post here. I decided to listen to the audiobook version using the ever wonderful Libby App.
About the book
Shortly after midnight on April 15, 1912, the captain of the Carpathia, Arthur Rostron, is awakened by a distress signal from the RMS 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?
Kate Connolly is excited to join her sister in America and proud to be traveling on the grand Titanic. As a third-class passenger, she is among the last to receive instruction and help after Titanic hits an iceberg. Despite the chaos of abandoning ship, Kate is able to reach the upper decks and manages to board a lifeboat, though after seeing the Titanic sink into the abyss and hearing the cries from the hundreds of people still in the water, she wonders if any rescue is even possible.
Told in alternating chapters from both Captain Rostron on the Carpathia and Kate Connolly on the Titanic, this historical novel is a compelling, heart-pounding account of two eyewitnesses to an epic disaster. Rostron’s heroic and compassionate leadership, his methodical preparations for rescue, and his grit and determination to act honorably and selflessly to save lives and care for the survivors, sets the course for this awe-inspiring story.
Like many people, I am fascinated with the story of Titanic and the people who sailed in her on her tragic maiden voyage. I’ve read many books fictionalising the disaster but I don’t think I’ve ever read one about the Carpathia. As you read in the synopsis, the Carpathia was the ship which came to the rescue and took on board all the survivors of the Titanic. It is unclear whether it was the closest ship to Titanic but she was the only one who went to the rescue. The story is told in the alternating voices of Captain Rostron of the Carpathia and young Irish girl Kate Connolly, a third class survivor from Titanic. Kate Connolly was no relation to the author but, as is explained in the author’s note at the end, she was drawn to write about this passenger because of their surnames being the same.
Through Rostron’s very matter-of-fact account, we really get the impression of a dedicated sea captain who just felt that he was carrying out his duty. He was determined to do his very best for the survivors of the Titanic and made sure that they were the priority as they sailed back to New York. Through Kate we see the optimism of someone so excited to be making a new life in America turn to fear and despair as the ship hits the ice, and then to survivor’s guilt as she is reunited with her family. Through both these characters, we also find out the stories of many of the other passengers and crew. Some names will be familiar and others not so much.
I found this book completely enthralling even though I am reasonably familiar with what happened that April night in 1912. It was refreshing to read this book told from a different viewpoint than normal. The author has clearly done a lot of research and brought it together beautifully in this moving and compelling story. Even though it is a fictionalised account, everything which happens in the book is based on eye-witness accounts from the time. A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice is a story of dedication, courage and bravery and shines new light on a very familiar story.
This is the first book I have read by this author and I would be keen to read more. I see she has a book based on a true story from The Great War coming out next year (Under the Cover of Mercy) and I am looking forward to reading that one.
About the Author
Rebecca Connolly is the author of more than two dozen novels. She calls herself a Midwest girl, having lived in Ohio and Indiana. She’s always been a bookworm, and her grandma would send her books almost every month so she would never run out. Book Fairs were her carnival, and libraries are her happy place. She has been creating stories since childhood, and there are home videos to prove it! She received a master’s degree from West Virginia University, spends every spare moment away from her day job absorbed in her writing, and is a hot cocoa addict.