A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice by Rebecca Connolly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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.
Rebecca Connolly takes what is probably one of the most well-known tragedies in history and gives fresh insight through the perspective of the Carpathia's captain and crew. Instead of the Titanic taking the lead, the Carpathia's captain, crew and passengers are shifted to center stage - both during and in the weeks after the rescue.
The Carpathia was an older ship, and in the early pages, we see some comparisons between these two... The Titanic offered extravagance and ostentation, but the Carpathia had earned respect and admiration on her merits alone. The author also shares a prophetic definition of Titans that was interesting: a race of people vainly striving to overcome the forces of nature. Could anything be more unfortunate than such a name?
I enjoyed getting to know Captain Rostron - an humble man of profound faith who found fulfillment in his job, earned the respect of those who served under him, and had the ability to bring out the best in people. In the hours it took to reach the Titanic, Rostron's crucial leadership wasn't without risk as the ship's speed was pushed to the limit while sailing through the same ice fields that crippled the larger ship.
Connolly has skillfully used her research to create a compelling and fascinating story of heartbreak, compassion, and courage. Rostron's faith makes it even more profound... "I can only conclude that there was another hand at the helm than mine." Rostron's thoughts toward the end say it all:
They had been tried and tested and emerged with a brilliance and strength that they had never previously known. Therein might have lain the true miracle.
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