“Eliza has never seen a land that looks so very much like blood. From the deck of the steamer it glistens, stretching wide in a lazy, sun-blurred smear.”
Genre: Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 304
Date of Publication: 3 March 2022
Publisher: Mantle / Pan Macmillan
My Review Summary: A great historical fiction mystery.
📖PLOT SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS📖
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.
I love a mystery and have recently enjoyed some historical fiction books, so with both of those boxes ticked I thought that this would be a good book to sign up for! In addition to that the inspiration came from events in Australian history that I knew nothing about, so that added to the intrigue. I was not disappointed!
The writing was interesting with lots of different bits being added in throughout the story. When reading them, they seem to be random, but as you get through the story you start to realise their relevance. It was very cleverly done and made for a great story. I did not see the end coming!
Right away the story opens with mysterious and detailed language which draws you in. The story follows the main character Eliza and it was clear by the language used that she was not entirely happy with being in Australia. The description of places were often harsh and uninviting and made you wonder why anybody lived there! It was a clever technique to get the tone of the story across.
The chapters at the beginning were dated and had place names. This then disappeared as you got into the swing of the story. Each chapter had a picture of a pearl in a shell at the top which was quite nice.
The chapters were fairly short, with longer chapters being clearly split. You then had a couple of very short (2 pages long), italic chapters detailing a man on the run from the police. There were also diary entries dotted around which made for interesting reading and their relevance didn’t come to light until later in the book. The short chapter technique with lots of bits being dropped in kept my interest and gave a good pace to the story. The detail was excellent and I enjoyed the harsh words used to describe the places that Eliza found herself in/surrounded by.
What I also quite enjoyed was the main character reminiscing about the past. It was a great tool to use to gradually build up a picture of the main character’s past and also made us question the people around her. There were lots of clues and mysteries scattered around the book that were cleverly tied together at the end.
The characters were excellent. There were some harsh characters that really highlighted what a terrible place Eliza had been forced to come to. I loved the fact that Eliza was a strong female and she was the one who managed to solve the mystery. She was brave and focussed throughout, and using her past experiences she was able to get the end result that she wanted.
Lastly the settings. The description used was excellent. The words were well chosen and really gave a sense of displeasure at having to live in Australia. There was a good balance of setting and character description. You could get a good sense of where the character was without it being too overbearing and taking your attention away from the story.
Overall an enjoyable story and one that I would recommend to mystery/historical fiction fans.
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