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Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter: An Atmospheric Historical Mystery With a Courageous Heroine Intent on the Truth

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Both a breathtaking adventure story and a moving testimony to the lengths we go to for the people we love, it swept me away from the first page .

I also really liked Confucius, Gill the Bosun’s chatty and mischievous Cockatoo who provided some much needed light relief to the tense and more emotional scenes. Eliza Brightwell is a fabulous character, unconventional and courageous, yet bearing the physical and mental scars of a horrendous loss. In her debut novel, Pook introduces us to Eliza Brightwell, a pearler’s daughter living in the fictional Bannin Bay of Western Australia. Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction, strong female characters, mystery, and adventure. She’s the sort to walk around town in battered boots rather than ride in a carriage like other ladies of her class, much to the disapprobation of the townsfolk.Everyone believes he’s dead, except for Lizzie whose plucky spirit makes her undeterred in the face of negativity.

I really liked Balarri (an aboriginal man who works on the Brightwell’s boat) who we are introduced to through Eliza’s memories, he introduced much of the native fauna and flora to her Eliza and the more I found out about him only endeared me to him further. Though I could clearly visualise Eliza’s environment, I would have liked to learn more about the daily operations of a pearling fleet.

She cannot even pester Thomas about it as he immediately heads off to another town saying he has business to attend to. Eliza however refuses to believe that her enigmatic and strong-headed father would have simply been taken by the sea or turned on by his crew and it falls to her to go and seek out the truth of what took place on that boat but it won’t be easy. I think the sensibilities of the author and myself wildly differ, and for this reason, I doubt I will read more of her work. Lawhon’s fifth work of historical fiction is inspired by the true story and diaries of midwife Martha Ballard of Hallowell, Maine, a character she brings to life brilliantly here. The best part of the novel, for me, was Pook’s ability to make the reader feel the inequities brought on by the colonizers to the original Aboriginal people.

About the book: “For readers of The Light Between Oceans and The Island of Sea Women, a feminist adventure story set against the backdrop of the dangerous pearl diving industry in 19th-century Western Australia, about a young English woman who sets off to uncover the truth about the disappearance of her eccentric father. The story then shifts to 1890s when the reader finds out that Charles has gone missing from the logger during a recent pearling expedition. Eliza's nerve and determination makes her the perfect protagonist to take the reader on this mystery solving journey, as she faces off against corrupt and unfeeling townsfolk in the quest to find out what's happened to her father. They land in 1886 on the blood-red sands of Bannin Bay, a fictional stand-in for Broome — and like the real town, simultaneously cosmopolitan and isolated, over a thousand miles from the region’s capital. Adventure, feminist heroine, porcupines and jellyfish, dangerous men, secrets, grief, love and hope.Under the glamour and allure of south sea pearls, Eliza quickly discovers the decaying, stinking and vile underworld of the town which takes her from the sun-scorched streets of Bannin Bay, which soon turn jaded and seedy, full of corruption and deceit but will she see that perhaps things should be left alone and maybe accept her father is lost? When British pearl-boat captain Charles Brightwell goes missing out at sea, rumours of mutiny and murder swell within the bay's dens and back alleys. The book takes place in the 19th century in a brutal coastal town of Australia where pearling is one of the few ways to make a decent living.

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