Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter

Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter

by Lizzie Pook

2 out of 5

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.

Western Australia, 1886. After months at sea, a slow boat makes its passage from London to the shores of Bannin Bay. From the deck, young Eliza Brightwell and her family eye their strange, new home. Here is an unforgiving land where fortune sits patiently at the bottom of the ocean, waiting to be claimed by those brave enough to venture into its depths. An ocean where pearl shells bloom to the size of soup plates, where men are coaxed into unthinkable places and unspeakable acts by the promise of unimaginable riches.

Ten years later, the pearl-diving boat captained by Eliza’s eccentric father returns after months at sea—without Eliza’s father on it. Whispers from townsfolk point to mutiny or murder. Headstrong Eliza knows it’s up to her to discover who, or what, is really responsible.

As she searches for the truth, Eliza discovers that beneath the glamorous veneer of the pearling industry, lies a dark underbelly of sweltering, stinking decay. The sun-scorched streets of Bannin Bay, a place she once thought she knew so well, are teeming with corruption, prejudice, and blackmail. Just how far is Eliza willing to push herself in order to solve the mystery of her missing father? And what family secrets will come to haunt her along the way?

A transporting feminist adventure story based on Lizzie Pook’s deep research into the pearling industry and the era of British colonial rule in Australia, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter is ultimately about the lengths one woman will travel to save her family.

Eliza's father goes missing mysteriously, whilst out at sea. Dissatisfied when the officials blame her native friend, Eliza sets about to uncover what happened.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Eliza and her family arrived in Bannin Bay ten years ago, to make their fortune with the other pearlers.
Her father and brother both went out on the latest trip, but only her brother returned with the crew - none of whom had seen her father disappear.

The story follows Eliza as she goes about Bannin Bay, trying to uncover the many secrets. It also dips in and out of her history, and what else has happened in the last ten years.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get on with this book.
The author spends so much time describing the make-shift town and its residents, with so many heavy-handed metaphors and similes, sometimes in every paragraph on the page - I have no idea what anyone or anything actually looks like!
Also, by half-way, nothing has happened, as it's still completely focussed on describing every little thing in a ludicrous manner.

I couldn't connect with Eliza and her 'friends'. For all the narrative spends time on describing how everything looks, it barely spares a sentence to describe characters. Their histories and motives are mentioned briefly in a business-like manner. We don't actually get to know anyone, not even Eliza herself.
It's not like they're shallow or two-dimensional, there's just a complete lack of expansion on any of the characters involved.

The 'feminist adventure' was lacking feminism (and adventure, if I'm honest).
It stated everything that Eliza found wrong with the lives of women, with a very modern voice.
It then spent the rest of the time revolving around the lives of men. 
Our 'feminist' heroine Eliza is open-minded and friends with a prostitute.. but her open-mindedness only goes so far, as she castigates the other women of her own class.

Overall, this book was not for me, but I can see it appealing to others.


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