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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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When British pearl-boat captain Charles Brightwell goes missing out at sea, rumours of mutiny and murder swell within the bay's dens and back alleys.

The chapters are short and to the point with beautiful descriptions and nostalgic elements were necessary without being stretched out or overly detailed. 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. I can’t tell you about it but it makes Eliza all the more determined to find her father - dead or alive! 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. 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.

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. Eliza however refuses to believe that her enigmatic and strong-headed father would have simply been taken by the sea or turned on by his crew and it falls to her to go and seek out the truth of what took place on that boat but it won’t be easy. Eliza is an early feminist, who knows her own mind, not swayed by others, she has no intention of following the cultural rules and behaviour expected of women, although she has her own demons, she is helped in her quest by her friend, Min, who has to do whatever it takes to survive.

A woman who proudly refuses to live by the repressive societal conventions expected from women of the day. Joseph North, whose role as judge in local court proceedings has made the victim, Rebecca Foster, reluctant to make her complaint public. Eliza’s devotion to her family, despite the many flaws of Charles and Thomas, explains why she refuses to give up. The story is interesting in many ways but too brutal, We know of the brutality but it's hard to get a sense of the people, other than Eliza and the man who travels with her.It was a dreary tale, and the only person with any integrity seemed to be the often nigh-suicidal Eliza. 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. The setting, habits and manner of speech were all very well done and I could feel the 19th century climate. She’s the sort to walk around town in battered boots rather than ride in a carriage like other ladies of her class, much to the disapprobation of the townsfolk.

Set in the harsh, unforgiving land that is outback Western Australia, the constant heat, flies and any number of other insects and things that bite, the reality was vivid.I wanted to feel more the atmosphere of the place and the rush for those famous pearls, and learning about the value of the pearls itself. Everyone believes he’s dead, except for Lizzie whose plucky spirit makes her undeterred in the face of negativity.

Eliza is devastated, and when the local constabulary immediately places blame upon one of her father’s most loyal divers, Eliza sets out to prove the man’s innocence, and learn the truth about her father’s fate.The book takes place in the 19th century in a brutal coastal town of Australia where pearling is one of the few ways to make a decent living. Pook captures the historical period with her wonderful descriptive prose, shining a light on and capturing the horrors when it comes to the racist treatment of aboriginals that beggars belief, their never ending nightmare, enslaved, brutalised, murdered with impunity, families broken up, forced to become pearl divers and facing daily abuse and violence.

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