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STARBOARD AT MIDNIGHT Hardcover – 29 Mar 2012

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Surviving and the Consequences That Follow 29 Oct. 2011
By Grady Harp - Published on
Format: Paperback
Helen Behr Sanford has written a compelling biographical novel in STARBOARD AT MIDNIGHT, a book based on the unpublished personal memoir written by her grandfather Karl H. Behr - and not only is this a true story of survival of one of the most dramatic tragedies in history the sinking of the Titanic on April 14, 1912, but it is a humanistic novel about the man and woman who survived and how that traumatic event altered their lives. Sanford takes her well-studied facts, mixes them with enough variation so that single people named are actually composited of several people for the purpose of making the novel as propulsive as it is.

For the sake of historical data and to refresh our minds, 'in 1912 the sinking of the Titanic began late on the night of April 14th. Information on the sinking Titanic indicates that the ship approached a massive iceberg, and although efforts were made to steer clear of the large frozen mass, all efforts were to no avail. Sadly, further records of the Titanic accident history indicate that the Titanic disaster may very well have been able to have been completely avoided had officers on ship paid heed to reports received earlier regarding the frozen waters they were approaching.' And as the narrator of the book states 'Survivors waited and waited for absolution that would never come. Helen Newsom and Karl H. Behr were amongst them. Karl was hailed as a rising tennis star, but when he survived the infamous sea-time disaster, his affiliation with guilt had little reckoning until he plunged into activism with Theodore Roosevelt. '

The Titanic incident could not have been more poorly timed as ti was in the timeframe of the smoldering and ultimately burning World War I: the tension between Germans of people of German ancestry was fragile at best. Karl Behr's background included life experiences from such a spectrum as gang wars in Brooklyn to the life of a miner for silver in Mexico to the eventual attending of school and law school, and subsequent business enterprises. The first 3/4s of the book is based on Karl's life before the Titanic and what an amazing life it was. Tennis was his true passion and he was considered and ranked among the top tennis players in the US. Sanford wisely brings all of this information to her book, giving the reader a solid image of the man Behr was and then brings the sinking of the Titanic into the story. The drama is tense but the tension is necessary in order to capture the inner personality of the man who would be almost crippled by guilt at being one of the few survivors of a ship that should have had many survivors.

But what follows in the last chapters of this tense book is the marriage of Karl Behr to his beloved Helen Newsom and the manner in which they lead their lives equipped with the mentality and compassion of those who survived. This is a well written book that recreates a period of time like few others have. It is far more than a memoir: this is a book about the indomitable spirit of mankind, and as such it should be not only a very fine history lesson but also a source of inspiration to all who read it. Grady Harp, October 11
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A keeper 12 Oct. 2011
By Andrew I. Dayton - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Starboard at Midnight is a welcome addition to a year of invitations to revisit the worlds of our grandparents by the likes of Paula McLain's The Paris Wife and Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. In this narrative adaptation of the memoirs of her grandfather, Karl Behr, Lynn Sanford paints a unique and evocative picture of the end of the American version of the Belle Epoque as it tailed into World War I, and beyond, recounting the coming of age of her ancestor. And what ancestor he was: youngest of four sons of prosperous German immigrants in New Youk; scrappy gang fighter, Davis Cup tennis champion; mining explorer in Mexico; prominent lawyer; advisor to Teddy Roosevelt and Titanic survivor. You can't get a better story than that.
Using fictional techniques when necessary, Sanford movingly recounts the internal challenges Karl experienced and the resolve with which he fought them throughout his eventful life. The most poignant passages concern the guilt he experienced over being one of the few male survivors of the Titanic. Was it fate that he directed his fiancée's family to the starboard boat deck where boarding lifeboats was less restricted? Was it fate that his fiancée's mother asked the head of the White Star Line if Karl could join her in the lifeboat as Karl was in her party? Should he have declined? Since the lifeboat was not full, would someone else have been saved if he had? He was not a coward: he had faced down marauding Rurales and bandits in Mexico; held his own in adolescent street fights with "the Micks"; and later maintained his composure and patriotism despite the rampant anti-German discrimination of World War I America. He did have self-doubts and he did face them with resolve, courage, and eventually the support of a loving wife, all of which makes Starboard at Midnight a very moving story - all the more so for it's truth.
In all of us there is a need to connect with our forebears. Starboard at Midnight makes it engaging to do so vicariously. It's definitely a keeper.
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