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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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The undimmed romance between 40-something Martha and her husband, Ephraim, adds a racy flair to the proceedings. If you’re a fan of historical fiction and nature (more particularly aquatic life or sea(side) settings), this one is definitely for you!

Her father is a pearl master, her brother works by his side, and Eliza is alone when they go on their ten week pearling expeditions. It’s set in 1880s Bannin Bay, Western Australia and follows the headstrong Eliza Brightwell (daughter of the town’s most prolific pearl catcher) as she hunts for answers behind her father’s disappearance.I just wish a few more of those nostalgic childhood moments were included in the story to really understand their relationship but it was nonetheless touching. I knew nothing about pearling when I started reading this book, but not only does Pook's novel manage to weave a thrilling yet emotional adventure plot throughout, the historical context is illuminating and expertly handled. Eliza’s devotion to her family, despite the many flaws of Charles and Thomas, explains why she refuses to give up. The stench of death is a part of this coastal town, with the butcher of animals, fish, birds, and sometimes the humans that are considered less than human. When a man accused of rape turns up dead, an Early American town seeks justice amid rumors and controversy.

The vessel is one of the last to come in and she soon learns from her brother that their father has disappeared. They arrive intending to pursue her father, Charlie's dream of making his fortune by taking up pearling, but it turns out to be a hard life, the unrelenting scorching sun and the unforgiving environment, with its surprising, often deadly, fauna and flora, and a profession with many diverse rivals, with divers facing life threatening challenges and dangers. To sum up, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter has to be picked up for the historical setting and glimpse into the lives of pearl divers. The story moves to 1896 and the focus of the story is Eliza’s effort to investigate the disappearance of her father.

It was slow, so very slow, dragging, not building on the protagonist, Eliza or her partner in crime Alex. Lawhon’s fifth work of historical fiction is inspired by the true story and diaries of midwife Martha Ballard of Hallowell, Maine, a character she brings to life brilliantly here.

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