Published: March 3rd 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Adventure Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this phenomenal and unflinching debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Mantle for the gifted ARC.
Picked as one of Stylist magazine’s ‘Fiction Books You Can’t Miss in 2022’
Fortune favours the brave in Lizzie Pook’s mesmerising debut novel, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter
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, and 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 . . .
Fortune waits at the bottom of the ocean for reckless souls who push themselves, and others, to the limits to seek it.
Let me start by addressing the obvious: this is a GORGEOUS book. Possibly the most beautiful proof I’ve ever had. And I was delighted to discover that the book inside is every bit as spectacular as its shiny, iridescent cover. An exquisite treasure that is much the eponymous pearl; something silky, beautiful and rare crafted from grit, salt, meat and hard labour.
It opens in 1886 as 10-year-old Eliza Brightwell steps off the ship with her family to begin a new life in Bannin Bay, Western Australia. They have crossed the ocean to pursue her father Charles’ dreams of making his fortune in pearling. The story then jumps forward ten years. The Brightwells now own a fleet of pearl luggers and 20-year-old Eliza is awaiting the return of her father and brother from their latest journey at sea. But when the lugger returns, only her brother, Thomas, comes with it. Their father has disappeared at sea and is feared dead. But Eliza refuses to give up hope, embarking on her own search for truth and asking the questions no one else dares.
“It is quieter now, the guilt. But it is there, always, the ghost of something forever in the throat.”
Lizzie Pook has crafted a magnificent debut novel that is simply unforgettable. I was completely immersed in this book thanks to her smooth, velvety prose, captivating storytelling and evocative imagery. I felt like I could feel the hot sun beating down on me and held my own breath in anticipation alongside Eliza as she conducted her tireless search. I loved that I had no idea where the story was headed, the tension overflowing as the mystery deepened. Told in dual timelines the story moves smoothly between 1886 and 1896, giving us glimpses into the family’s history that could help solve the puzzle of Charles’ disappearance. The author has based this story on real Australian history and some of the characters are inspired by real historical figures, something I think shines through to make this a truly honest and bold piece of historical fiction.
Eliza is a memorable and compelling protagonist. A fierce, strong, tenacious, independent and adventurous new heroine, she is also an early feminist who doesn’t see why she shouldn’t be afforded the same rights as men. She rallies against the cultural roles she is expected to fulfil, determined to carve her own path whatever others might think. It was clear she is very close to her father and you feel her heartache and desperation on every page. I was rooting for her to find the answers she needed, even if I often worried that she wouldn’t get the positive outcome she believed in.
“A European is not often punished for his transgressions in Bannin Bay, particularly if those transgressions result in the spilling of native blood.”
Life in Bannin Bay is much harder than the Brightwells anticipated. It is a dirty, unforgiving environment filled with deadly flora and fauna. The sun is scorching, the sea treacherous, and the air ripe with the scent of salt, sweat and decay. And as we meet the townspeople we soon discover that it is also a place of rivalry, corruption and danger. There are an abundance of shady and criminal characters and Eliza must be careful at every turn. The author captures the time perfectly, shining a light on the horrific racist treatment of the aboriginals who were enslaved, brutalised, abducted, sold and even murdered. The pearl industry was rife with their abuse as they were forced to become divers. Even pregnant women weren’t safe as they were seen as preferential divers due to their apparent increased lung capacity. Death was sadly common and families were torn apart by the many injustices white settlers subjected them to.
Atmospheric, poignant, vibrant and unflinching, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter is a phenomenal debut that I know will stay with me. Lizzy Pook is an outstanding new talent and I can’t wait to read what she writes next. It will certainly be an auto-buy for me.
Go read this book!
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Lizzie is an award-winning writer and journalist. She began her career in women’s magazines, covering everything from cognitive enhancing drugs to conspiracy theorists. In 2015 she moved into travel journalism, reporting for publications such as Condé Nast Traveller, Rough Guides, Lonely Planet and The Sunday Times.
Her assignments have taken her to some of the most remote parts of the world, from the uninhabited east coast of Greenland in search of roaming polar bears, to the haunting mountains of the trans-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. The book will be published in February 2022 by Penguin Random House (Australia and New Zealand), March 2022 by Mantle/Pan Macmillan (UK), and in June 2022 by Simon & Schuster (US and Canada).
BUY THE BOOK:
Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx
Check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.