Book Review for “A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice” by Rebecca Connolly.
Summary: “Just after midnight on April 15, 1912, the passenger steamship Carpathia receives a distress signal from the largest passenger liner ever built, RMS Titanic, which is on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York. Captain Arthur Rostron is awakened to an enormous maritime emergency with little information to guide his actions in answering the call for help. Is the dire threat to the unsinkable Titanic accurate? His ship is more than four hours away; will Carpathia hold together if pushed to never-before-tested speeds? What if his ship also strikes an iceberg? How many of Titanic’s 2,200 passengers will the Carpathia be able to accommodate? 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, which was built in her Irish homeland. As a passenger in third-class accommodations, she is among the last to receive instruction and help after Titanic hits an iceberg. Among the chaos of abandoning ship, the chances of her securing a spot in a lifeboat appear grim. With the help of several men, also from Ireland, Kate finally reaches the upper decks and feels lucky to board Lifeboat 13, although no one knows if or when a rescue ship will come. She fears the icy water and wonders if they’ll all freeze to death. After seeing their magnificent ship submerge into the abyss, and hearing the cries of hundreds of fellow passengers drowning, it is almost too much to bear and Kate fleetingly thinks succumbing to her ordeal is the easiest escape.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Fiction; Settings: Historical, Atlantic Ocean – Titanic and Carpathia; Other Categories: Novel, Biographical.
Almost 110 years ago, Titanic, the ship that “couldn’t sink” hit an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic. Only one ship in the area answered its distress calls, and that was the Carpathia. This novel, which fictionalizes what happened with the Carpathia and those from the Titanic that survived, looks at the story a bit differently than other novels (and (bad) films) about this horrible event. Here we see it through the eyes of a steerage passenger from the Titanic, and the captain of the Carpathia. Because of this, as much as I thought I knew about this tragedy, I was also surprised to find out new things, and see it through a new perspective.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this book. I mean, I often get offers to read novels, and even where the subject matter sounds interesting (as this one did), I always worry that an offered book from an unknown author won’t measure up to those I actively look for to read, or from authors with whom I’m already familiar. Plus, I found out that Connolly’s usual genre is romance, and my regular readers know that I generally avoid those books. However, I shouldn’t have worried because, well… simply said, this novel far exceeded my expectations, and any of the tiny niggles I may have had dissolved into being totally insignificant by the time I’d finished reading. I should also mention that Connolly really gets the ball rolling very early on in this book, by leaving the background stories of both main characters to a bare minimum, before getting to the accident itself.
Now I know that having alternating points of view can sometimes feel like an overused mechanic, but I would assure potential readers of this novel that it worked perfectly here, and Connolly chose her characters well. The captain of the Carpathia was the obvious choice for that side of the story, and then taking the name of a real passenger who had the same surname as her own for the other character, was stroke of genius. These two voices combined to give a much more rounded picture of what really happened with both the rescuers and the survivors, than I’d ever known or even thought possible. Furthermore, Connolly paints them with such admiration and affection that it is hard to believe that these people died decades before she was born. More importantly, Connolly makes us feel deeply for them.
So, what does that mean? Well, with the pacing Connolly used at the start of the book, I swear my heart was racing while reading both the parts about Titanic’s disaster, and the parts of Carpathia’s rescue. Then Connolly calms things down with her narrative, but in such a way as to allow us to begin to grasp exactly how much this disaster affected everyone involved. To be totally honest, as it sunk in (no pun intended), I became increasingly emotional, and you know what that means? Of course, you do – she made me cry; not once, not twice, but at least half a dozen times. Need I say more? No, I need not; I therefore recommend this novel wholeheartedly, and can give it no less than a full five out of five stars. Thank you, Rebecca Connolly, for bringing us an amazing story of heroism, humanity, and selflessness at a time when we need to be reminded that these things can and do still exist in our world today.
Shadow Mountain Publishing released “A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice” by Rebecca Connolly on April 5, 2022. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Foyles, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank Callie Hansen of Shadow Mountain Publishing for offering me the ARC of this novel via NetGalley.