Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook is a confronting historic novel set in fictional
Bannin Bay, Western Australia. It tells of the Brightwell family when they first arrive in 1886, and ten
years later when tragedy strikes.
Charles Brightwell, naturalist, inventor and eccentric has brought his wife, son Thomas, and daughter
Eliza, to join his brother in the Pearl Shell business. They are to launch a fleet of luggers to haul shell
from the seabed to sell to the Americans and French, who turn it into buttons, pistol handles and the like.
Forward to1896 – Eliza, now age 20, waits anxiously for her Father’s ship “The White Starling” to return
after 9 weeks at sea. On its eventual return, she is informed that her father has gone missing from the
vessel. Thomas and the crew claim they saw nothing.
Despite advice to the contrary, Eliza is determined to find him. Axel Kramer, a young German with a
small dry-shelling business, offers to help her discover the truth of Charles’ disappearance.
As Eliza and Axel search the grim backstreets of the town, they discover an underworld of crime, vice
and murder. The government of the time is turning a blind eye to a corrupt police force, many of whom
inflict cruelty and death on poorer citizens and the indigenous people living in the area. Kidnapping and
slavery are rife and for most life is unbearable.
Eliza and Axel are sucked into this maelstrom of poverty and violence. Will they survive and go on to
solve the truth regarding Charles’ disappearance or will it cost far more than Eliza is able to bear?
Although Bannin Bay is fictional, this doesn’t detract from this inciteful and well-researched novel.
The author’s highly descriptive text brings not only her characters to life, but also explains how they
fought for survival. So many suffered from poverty, exploitation and prejudice.
The crippling heat, dust, dirt and flies in town make a striking contrast with the beauty and diversity of the
native flora and fauna and the power of the waves.
Dangers faced by the intrepid divers who collected the shells are revealed, as are their lives aboard the
luggers and the marvels of myriad sea creatures.
This wonderfully readable novel is a revelation regarding life at sea during those times and of the pearl
shell industry, which provided the wealthy with riches beyond compare.
Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter is suspenseful and ‘unputdownable’ – a definite must-read for 2022.
Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter is available in paperback e-book and audiobook
About Lizzie Pook
Lizzie Pook is an award-winning journalist and travel writer. Her assignments have taken her to some of
the most remote parts of the planet, from the uninhabited east coast of Greenland in search of roaming
polar bears, to the foothills of the 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. She lives in London.