Award-winning journalist Lizzie Pook is set to become a phenomenal new voice in the historical fiction space, following her deal with Pan Macmillan / Mantle for Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter, to be published in 2022.
Rights for the novel were hotly contested in multiple auctions; UK rights for two standalone books were acquired by associate publisher Sam Humphreys from Madeleine Milburn, with Moonlight to be positioned as a superlead hardback title for 2022. Beverley Cousins at Penguin Random House Australia acquired ANZ rights in a six-figure pre-empt, and joint North American rights went to Carina Guiterman with Sarah St Pierre at Simon & Schuster US and Canada, respectively, in another six-figure deal. German rights have already been sold to Penguin Random House, in a deal brokered by Rights Director Liane Smith.
Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter is a transfixing tale which envelopes its reader in the beautifully harsh landscape of North Western Australia, where men from distant lands flock to the shores to seek their fortune in pearls. While they hunt for treasure, a prominent pearler’s daughter is on the hunt for the truth behind her father’s sudden disappearance.
‘A pearl has a glow like a fire or a lamp. It is a siren song in the shape of a stone, sending men to lengths they never dreamed they would go.’
Western Australia, 1886
Under a steam-licked sky and after months at sea, a slow boat makes its passage to the shores of Bannin Bay. Cliffs creep with the brown-red colour of crushed insects; gulls skirl above battered mangrove jetties, and from the deck, Eliza Brightwell and her family eye their strange new home. Here is an unforgiving land where fortune sits patiently at the bottom of the ocean. A land where pearl shells bloom to the size of soup plates. Where men are coaxed into unthinkable places by shining nacre of champagne, silver and cream.
Ten years later, when Eliza’s eccentric and entrepreneurial father goes missing under suspicious circumstances, whispers from the townsfolk point to mutiny or murder. But when dead-ends are met and all hope seems lost, it falls to prickly but headstrong Eliza to discover who, or what, is responsible.
As she searches for the truth, delving beneath the glamorous veneer of south sea pearls, Eliza discovers that, underneath it all, lies a town of sweltering, stinking decay. The sun-scorched streets of Bannin Bay, a place she once thought she knew so well, are teeming with corruption, prejudice and blackmail.
How far is Eliza willing to push herself in order to solve the mystery and save the ones she loves?
What family secrets and ghosts from her past will come to haunt her along the way?
Humphreys shared: “From the very first page, I was swept up in Eliza’s story; Lizzie writes with a pitch-perfect combination of precision and passion, tension and atmosphere, and Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter is a joy to read, from start to finish. With a mystery at its heart, it’s also an account of an independent young woman defying the gendered expectations of the time, and, as such, tells a story that will resonate with readers everywhere. I’m thrilled to be publishing it in the UK”
Madeleine Milburn commented: “Lizzie has masterfully recreated a hidden history, beautiful and grotesque, everything rendered with astonishing clarity. The story is so atmospheric and transporting, I feel as though I’m still trying to recover my land legs.”
Guiterman added: “I’ve been desperate for a novel that will transport me away from the real world for a bit, and Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter was just the thing to do it. I lost myself completely in Lizzie’s atmospheric prose, in her lush, evocative descriptions of Bannin Bay’s sticky heat, surrounding mangrove swamps—and the crocodiles that fill them—and the dangers that lurk, both within this small pearling town and from without. I fell hard for this sweeping feminist adventure story and the brave protagonist at its centre, and I can’t wait for readers to fall for Eliza Brightwell too.”
As a travel writer and journalist, Lizzie has ventured to some of the farthest-flung parts of the planet, from the trans-Himalayas – in search of elusive snow leopards – to the vast, uninhabited east coast of Greenland. She has written for the Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times, The Evening Standard and Stylist. She has a BA in English Literature and an MA in Magazine Journalism. She lives in London.