A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice, by Rebecca Connolly, tells the story of the ship that rescued survivors from the sinking of the Titanic. Though a work of fiction, this novel is based on extensive research, and the author’s passion for and resulting knowledge of the events is apparent. The story is told through the eyes of the Carpathia’s captain on the one hand and from the perspective of one of Titanic’s passengers on the other. This dual perspective allows for the narrative to include poignant stories from on board the Titanic and to detail both the luxurious conditions of that vessel before its sinking and the drama in the moments of disaster without neglecting the tales of heroism that surrounded the rescue effort as the Carpathia raced to Titanic’s aid.
The characters in this novel are easy to sympathize with, as the author weaves life and character around the facts surrounding these people who actually existed. The setting benefits from the inclusion of details that were gleaned from eyewitness accounts at the time, and between each chapter, the author includes a quote of an eyewitness or a piece of a memoir about the events, further cementing the reality of the story in the reader’s mind. This story brings to life the horror and despair of a tragedy that was both unexpected and unthinkable at the time. Yes, beyond that despair, the narrative emphasizes hope, heroism, and faith and brings the kindness of humanity to the forefront to make an inspirational tale that can be enjoyed by older children and adults alike.
Review of an Advance Reading Copy from the Publisher
Profanity/Language: 4 religious exclamations; 1 mild profanity; a use of the word “hell” to describe a horrific condition, as well as a few uses of “Lord” and “God” as prayerful exclamations, are not included in this tally.
Violence/Gore: Since the sinking of the Titanic is a major focus of the novel, descriptions of that disaster are numerous and poignant, with deaths described, but not in an overly graphic manner; a man jumps to his death; many people drown and freeze to death; characters see dead bodies floating in the water a few times; dead bodies are removed from lifeboats; many reports of deaths; a character sustains a bloody injury while working; a verbal threat; a man punches another man in the face without major injury.
Sex/Nudity: Characters flirt verbally a few times; characters discuss whether a man likes a woman romantically; characters hold hands a few times.
Mature Subject Matter:
Suicide (carried out); separation of families; death of a loved on (friend, spouse, child, parent); class discrimination; mass casualty disaster (sinking of a ship); parts of this book focus heavily on the Christian faith of some of the characters, at one point having an extended description of a Christian church service with scripture and hymn quotations and doctrinal discussion; bribery (attempted); war (mention).
The ships have “smoking rooms”; an adult character smells of cigars; mention of spirits as a reference to alcoholic beverages; adult characters drink beer; mention of whiskey and brandy.