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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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Eliza is suicidal in her mission to find her father and towards the end of the story, she really does not care if she lives. The setting of the story is a harsh landscape with strange and often deadly flora, fauna and sea creatures. The author's novel is based on actual Aussie history, and many of her characters are inspired by real historical figures. It’s not exactly clear why Axel volunteers to accompany Eliza, other than he is a decent young man who seems to have admired Eliza from afar.

Western Australia, 1886 Twenty year old Eliza Brightwell and her family have lived in Bannin Bay for ten years now. The undimmed romance between 40-something Martha and her husband, Ephraim, adds a racy flair to the proceedings. The town with its enclave of Europeans rule the natives and multinational communities at the bottom of society. As the story begins, for a moment it switches between 1886 and 1896, but this is very brief and I actually hoped that it would continue throughout the whole story. Eliza stands out from the other women of Bannin Bay because of both her plain looks and her independent personality.

Only his headstrong daughter, Eliza, refuses to believe her father is dead, and sets out on a dangerous journey to uncover the truth. I can’t tell you about it but it makes Eliza all the more determined to find her father - dead or alive! One need read no farther than the first sentence to know this will be a deliciously descriptive book, and the beautiful writing is backed up by a mystery and an adventure unlike any I have read before.

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.The setting, habits and manner of speech were all very well done and I could feel the 19th century climate.

I also think that the eerie Victorian era ambience could have been upped a notch, but that’s just a personal preference as I love the fascination with spiritualism in those times (I’m referring to one specific moment in this book, so if you’ve read it you know what I mean. 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 book also shines an important light on the indigenous people and how they were exploited, enslaved, and abused by this industry (truly horrific). Further complications are numerous: North has control over the Ballard family's lease on their property; Rebecca is carrying the child of one of her rapists; Martha’s son was seen fighting with Joshua Burgess on the day of his death.While the setting for this novel is particularly well developed, the characters often feel a bit flat, and there are many missed opportunities. Joseph North, whose role as judge in local court proceedings has made the victim, Rebecca Foster, reluctant to make her complaint public. Set in Western Australia during the late 1800s, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter is Eliza’s story. Events culminate in the revelation of family secrets that lead to Eliza sailing the Moonlight, Father McVeigh's lugger, with the German Axel Kramer and the aboriginal boy, Knife, as deckhand, facing storms, sharks and saltwater crocs, fearless in her determination to find her father. Knowing how rare the quality of their relationship is sharpens the intensity of Martha’s gaze as she watches the romantic lives of her grown children unfold.

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.With native intelligence and grit, and her father’s diary to guide her, Eliza inspires a drifter to help her in her quest. Where the author excels with her vivid descriptions of the dry Kimberly landscape, the community’s streets and residents, and the changing conditions of the sea, effortlessly evoking harsh heat, salt air and crashing waves. This is an outstanding debut novel that will capture the hearts of many readers, especially those who love historical fiction. 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. Pook introduced various interesting characters, such as Min, a mixed-race girl of an Asian father who was forced into prostitution to survive.

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