Thursday 17 March 2022


Book review: Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter by Lizzie Pook [blog tour]

It's 1896 when Eliza Brightwell's father goes missing one night from his boat, disappearing without a trace. He's a beloved pearler in the town of Bannin Bay in Western Australia; his supposed murder causing speculation amidst the townspeople, and an innocent man is soon hunted for the deed, pursuit and blamed just because of the colour of his skin. When Eliza's brother disappears to settle the family affairs, she's left alone with the unrest brewing in Bannin Bay. Convinced her father is still alive, and the jailed Balarri is an innocent man, she realises that the only way to get to the bottom of the truth is if she'd seek it out herself. 

Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter is an atmospheric novel, extruding the oppressing heat, buzzing of the insects, and the perilous waters that define life in Bannin Bay. I was fascinated by the story of the pearlers, which I was woefully ignorant about before picking up this book. Apparently people from Europe flocked to similar bays in the late 19th century to set up a new life for themselves; one of more wealth and prosperity than the industrial revolution in their native countries could give them. 

While Bannin Bay is a fictional place, it's based on real locations, stories, and references from that time period. And this intricate knowledge of Western Australia and the boom of the pearling businesses really comes through in Lizzie Pook's writing, which is incredibly detailed and vivid; the sand, sea, and heat practically leaping off the pages. While this adds a layer of realism to the book, the setting, and its characters, it's unfortunately also detrimental to the pacing of the story. It's almost as if the research and authenticity take centre stage, and not the crucial plot that can keep readers engaged. 

I was really hoping, and expecting, to love this novel. The glimpses we see of the potential magical realism elements interspersed with the harsh reality of life in Bannin Bay, created the perfect backdrop for a compelling and unexpected read. And yet, the story struggled to keep my attention throughout – and I really had to force myself to finish this book. 

That isn't to say, that I didn't enjoy the novel at all. It was fairly decent read, particularly the latter third, which is when the story finds its strive and the developments around Eliza's investigation start picking up. However, a less committed reader may have already lost interest at that point, not reaching the crucial revelations that put so many of the seemingly irrelevant diary entries, flashbacks, and background scenes in perspective. 

Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of pearlers in Western Australia. The atmospheric storytelling, and intricate knowledge of this world during the late 19th century, creating the perfect vessel for readers to be transported to Bannin Bay. But while there, the characters and the journey they are on, cannot fully captivate the reader to create a truly compelling story. It was interesting and enlightening, for sure, but unfortunately that isn't enough to create a memorable read.   

Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter by Lizzie Pook is published by Pan Macmillan and you can order your copy now from your favourite book shop.

Blog tour stops for 'Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter' by Lizzie Pook

This review for 'Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter' is a part of the official blog tour for the launch of the book. Make sure to check out the other stops too!

Disclaimer: This book was gifted to me by the publisher, but this has not impacted this honest review.

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