1886, BANNIN BAY, AUSTRALIA.
The Brightwell family has sailed from England to make their new home in Western Australia. Ten-year-old Eliza knows little of what awaits them on these shores beyond shining pearls and shells like soup plates – the things her father has promised will make their fortune.
Ten years later and Charles Brightwell, now the bay’s most prolific pearler, goes missing from his ship while out at sea. Whispers from the townsfolk suggest mutiny and murder, but headstrong Eliza, convinced there is more to the story, refuses to believe her father is dead.
It falls to her to ask the questions no one else dares consider. But in a town teeming with corruption, prejudice and blackmail, Eliza soon learns that the truth can cost more than pearls, and she must decide just how much she is willing to pay – and how far she is willing to go – to find it…
What I Thought:
What first drew me to Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter was the shiny cover that is brimming with clues to the story within.
Once inside the book, Victorian-era Australia comes alive in vivid descriptions of both the beautiful and the ugly – of Eliza’s father’s study and the objects within that spark her memories and the harsh, Western Australian desert where the dust is inescapable.
Eliza is a fantastic and complex character. She’s a woman of intelligence, but this brings her up against the restrictions placed on her because of her sex, and also into opposition with the women of Bannin Bay, with whom she is unable to fit in. She carries a huge amount of guilt for events in her past, but perhaps her search for her father can free her of this guilt.
The background of the novel, its setting among the Australian pearl industry, is completely new to me, so it was interesting to find out more about it – the beauty and value of natural pearls, weighed up against the human cost of the industry. There’s much more to read about this!
The main focus of the book is Eliza’s father’s disappearance, and the mystery there unravels in unpredictable ways, but there are so many layers to this book; family, colonialism, racism, feminism all weave seemlessly into the story with such a delicate hand, it’s incredible that this is a debut novel!
Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter is published by Mantle Books.
About the Author:
Lizzie Pook is an award-winning journalist and travel writer contributing to The Sunday
Times, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Condé Nast Traveller and more. Her assignments have
taken her to some of the most remote parts of the planet, from the uninhabited east coast of
Greenland in search of roaming polar bears, to the foothills of the Himalayas to track endangered snow leopards.
She was inspired to write Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter, her debut novel, after
spending time in north-western Australia researching the dangerous and fascinating pearl-diving industry. She lives in London.
This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate publication of Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter. Check out some of the other participating blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content.
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.