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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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The level of detail in the atmospheric and evocative descriptions was absolutely amazing; the sticky cloying heat of the Bannin Bay, the salt encrusted seafarers and the dizzingly numerous dangers lurking amongst mangroves was utterly transportive.

Apology to the author on her debut book but the overly descriptive writing choked me and choked the story and I couldn’t go on after about 70+ pages. 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.

This was a wonderful tale with sparkling characters, a huge landscape, a sometimes violent seascape and the usual terrible racial tensions. Set in Western Australia during the late 1800s, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter is Eliza’s story. 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 wasn’t wholly captivated by Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter, it is a solid debut, with a lot to recommend it. You were a good little liar,” Udo later tells Nico, and delights in the prospect of breaking the boy’s spirit, which is more fun and a greater challenge than killing him outright.

All the characters in this book lead dark and constrained lives, and no one seems to have ever been happy, and will apparently never be happy. The setting, habits and manner of speech were all very well done and I could feel the 19th century climate. It’s set in 1880s Bannin Bay, Western Australia and follows the headstrong Eliza Brightwell (daughter of the town’s most prolific pearl catcher) as she hunts for answers behind her father’s disappearance.The townsfolk suggest mutiny and murder but Eliza refuses to believe her father is dead and knows there’s more to the story than anyone is letting on.

I question whether the fact that I listened to the story, rather than read it, may have contributed to the adventure piece falling flat. paints a memorable picture of ambition, sacrifice and corruption while exploring personal loss as driving force. Eliza’s devotion to her family, despite the many flaws of Charles and Thomas, explains why she refuses to give up. Eliza stands out from the other women of Bannin Bay because of both her plain looks and her independent personality.This story does make me want to know more about Eliza Broadhurst, one of the people the author used as the starting point in developing the character of Eliza. Lizzie Pook’s novel about a young woman in the 19th-century outback, “Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter,” examines the perils — moral, physical and otherwise — of the pearling industry. As she did with Nancy Wake in Code Name Hélène (2020), Lawhon creates a stirring portrait of a real-life heroine and, as in all her books, includes an endnote with detailed background.

Eliza Brightwell is a fabulous character, unconventional and courageous, yet bearing the physical and mental scars of a horrendous loss. Eliza’s single-minded drive to save her family because of tragedy in her past feels familiar, and it doesn’t allow Eliza’s character to develop over the course of the book; her romantic relationship with a pearler named Axel barely registers.He would mostly describe marine life, which really added to the atmosphere, by being poetic and appreciative of nature and yet real and even tragic at times. But in a town teeming with corruption, prejudice, and blackmail, Eliza soon learns that the answers she seeks might cost more than pearls. In that city, Nico Krispis is an 11-year-old Jewish boy whose blue eyes and blond hair deceive, but whose words do not. It was a dreary tale, and the only person with any integrity seemed to be the often nigh-suicidal Eliza. 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?

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