Book Review: A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice


Based on the remarkable true story of the Carpathia―the one ship and her legendary captain who answered the distress call of the sinking Titanic.

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?

Kate Connolly is a third-class passenger on Titanic, and she is among the last to receive instruction and help after it hits an iceberg. Despite the chaos of abandoning ship, Kate is able to board a lifeboat, though after seeing the Titanic sink into the abyss and hearing the cries from hundreds of people still in the water, she wonders if any rescue is even possible.

Told in alternating chapters from both Captain Rostron and Kate Connolly, this 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.

My Review

I have read many books centered on the Titanic. Some mention the Carpathia but none really focus on this ship and just how important its role was in rescuing so many people that fatal night. Thus I really liked this book as it provided a different point of view of this tragic event. 

I would say I can't imagine what the crew of the Carpathia must have been thinking and feeling when they heard the distress call about the Titanic but I can in a way imagine as author, Rebecca Connolly did give me a very insightful vantage point with this book. If it had not been for Captain Arthur Rostron and his crew there would have been many more lives lost that night. 

Also, the other point of view of Kate, third-class passenger was nice. I could feel her fear as she tried to figure out what was happening to the realization moment of just what was happening. As I was reading this book, it was like I was there. I could feel the bitter icy, cold air and hear the screams. 

Readers may have read many Titanic books but this is one that they will want to pick up and add to their list to read. 

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 received a master’s degree from West Virginia University.

Learn more about Rebecca and her books at

Chapter Six

RMS Titanic • April 15, 1912 • 12:45 AM

There had been no water on the floor when they had left the cabin.

There was no time.

“Mary,” Kate whispered, her eyes burning as she stared at the approaching seawater. “Run.”

They bolted down the corridor toward their cabin, the endless expanses of white walls feeling to Kate more like a cage, each wall seeming to close in on them as they ran. She could not hear the sluggish approach of the water, yet in her mind, there were suddenly crashing waves and towering icebergs.

She had to escape.

Gulping in air, Kate quickened her pace, and she and Mary reached their room before the water was beneath their feet. Once inside, Mary turned and stretched up to reach the life belts stored above the door, handing each one to Kate in turn.

Kate slid one over her head, then shoved the other two under her arms. She looked about the room in a moment of panic, wondering what she could take that she might need.

The answer, of course, was nothing.

There was nothing of value in her cabin. Nothing she would risk her life or safety over.Not one thing.

Mary put on her own life belt and took one of the other belts from Kate, nodding firmly. “Ready?”

Kate swallowed, but returned the nod. “Yes.”

Without looking back, the pair of them tore from the cabin and raced back up the way they had come. Their pace would fuel the energy and panic of the other passengers, but Kate did not care. She needed to get back to her friends, and, somehow, they needed to get up to a higher deck.

But how? The way was so crowded and full, and chaos was everywhere. There was no good direction to take, and misinformation in abundance. And what about Martin? Had he retrieved his life belt and come back?

Cries filled the air, and the wailing of terrified children increased. Grown men shoved each other aside, others bellowing for women and children to get ahead of the rest.

How would they survive this? How could they hope to get any-where when the water was already coming through?

Titanic was sinking.

How could that be?

“Put your life belts on,” she told the family near them, who had, mercifully, brought them from their cabin. “All of ye.”


The terrified mother nodded, helping her children despite the little one’s crying, sleepy complaints.

Pray God, none of the wee babes remember this, Kate thought to herself. It would be bad enough for the adults, but the children?

She wanted to scoop up as many as she could and rush them to the top decks herself.

If only she knew the way up.

The General Room was filled with more people now, all of them terrified and anxious. Some clung to each other, some sat alone in silence, and some watched the madness in the corridor as though it were a strange phenomenon they could not understand.

“Shouldn’t we try to get out of here?” Mary Mac asked as they rejoined their friends, handing out the life belts. “Go up to the boat deck, at least.”

Before anyone could respond, a small group entered the General Room, somber and shaking their heads. “No use,” one of them muttered. “The ship is too large. We’ll never find it.”

Kate watched them sit on the benches, dejected, and her heart pounded with a new, unsteady cadence.

Julia swallowed hard, then looked at Mary with almost vacant eyes. “How? Getting anywhere in that melee would be a miracle, and that is the fourth group that’s come back without any luck. Nobody is interested in saving third class, even if we could get up there. Have you seen any Titanic crew down here to aid us? I have not.”

Kate stared at her friends silently, horror and fear and apprehension filling her. Even if they could fight their way through the crowds, and even if they found the boat deck, the class distinctions would undoubtedly be preserved. 

Julia was right. No one in authority was telling them how to get where they needed to go, or that they needed to do so at all. There were too many passengers in third class for a rapid and careful evacuation, especially when the wealthier passengers would be at hand first. A few passengers might take up the charge and lead some others up, but they would have to know the way as well. Did anyone here know such a thing?

Closer proximity to the lifeboats would give those passengers more time to escape.

Third Class had to ask for directions to even have a chance.

Tears threatened to choke Kate. They washed across her face, and her lungs tightened. She swallowed hard, desperate to force the lump in her throat out of the way, and failing. She settled for clearing it twice. 

She looked at Mary Mac, her eyes swimming. “I think now would be an excellent time for a prayer, Mary. If you can.”

Mary blinked, then nodded and immediately knelt on the floor.

Julia, Mary-from-Clare, and Kate joined her in kneeling, taking each other’s hands, bowing their heads.

“Our Father,” Mary Mac intoned, her voice quivering, “which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name . . .”

“Thy kingdom come”—Kate and the others joined in—“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Words faded from Kate’s voice, though her lips continued to move in fervent recitation. No, not recitation. 

The words were familiar, well known, but these were not simply words she had uttered or read in her life. This was the cry of her heart. 

From the depths of her soul.

A hand suddenly settled on her shoulder, gripping tight. 

Kate turned with a gasp that startled the others out of prayer.

Martin Gallagher stood there, his other hand clinging to his sweet-heart, Margaret. He leaned close, his expression firm, and whispered, “Come with me, girls. I’ll get you up to the boats.”

Titanic Facts:

20 – the number of horses needed to transport the main anchor.

$7,500,000 – the cost of building the RMS Titanic.

269.1 metres – the length of the Titanic (882 feet 9 inches).

220 to 245 feet – the estimated length of the gash caused by the collision (minimum to maximum length).

10,000 – the approximate number of lamp bulbs used on the ship.

There were 840 staterooms in all, 416 in First Class, 162 in Second Class, and 262 in Third Class.

825 tons – the amount of coal used per day. Sister ship Olympic, comparable in size but with a lower gross register tons of 45,324, had a daily coal consumption of around 674 tons.

1,050 tons – the amount of coal used per day by the Cunard ships, which although faster were also smaller and much less fuel efficient.

13 – the number of honeymooning couples on the voyage.

49% – the percentage of passenger places that went unused (the loss of life could have been far great still).

64 – the number of lifeboats the Titanic ship could have been capable of carrying

48 – the number of lifeboats originally planned for Titanic 

20 – the number of lifeboats Titanic actually carried

472 – the number of lifeboat spaces that went unused.

20 – the number of people said to have cancelled their plans to sail aboard Titanic after dreaming that she would sink.

60 minutes – the delay between the collision and the first Titanic lifeboats launching.

The Titanic, like her sister ship Olympic, had not been fitted with any form of public address system.

58 miles – distance of the rescue vessel Carpathia, at the time of the distress call.

15-45 minutes – the typical maximum life expectancy of the Titanic victims in the water.

At 11.40pm on 14 April 1912, the RMS Titanic strikes an iceberg

At around 2.20am on 15 April, the Titanic disappeared beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean

Striking the water was like a thousand knives being driven into one’s body. The temperature was 28 degrees, four degrees below freezing. -Charles Lightoller, Titanic Second Officer

Colonel John Jacob Astor IV was the wealthiest passenger on board, and believed to be one of the richest people in the world at the time, with a personal fortune that was estimated at between $90-150 million, which today would make him a billionaire a few times over.

You could actually walk miles along the decks and passages covering different ground all the time. I was thoroughly familiar with pretty well every type of ship afloat but it took me 14 days before I could, with confidence, find my way from one part of that ship to another. -Charles Lightoller, Titanic Second Officer


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