Western Australia, 1886. After months at sea, a slow boat makes its passage from London to the shores of Bannin Bay. From the deck, young 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.
Pook’s writing is reliably vivid, alternating between dense lyricism and free indirect speech with an old-timey diction. The eventual explanation for Charles’s disappearance is somewhat thin — even Eliza thinks so. But Moonlight is a sensitive and compassionate book, admirable in its engaging synthesis of multiple strands of history. It is alive to the complexity of how things must have been, and its consideration of race, gender and sexuality invigorates the era with a freshness that feels organic ... The novel is shaped around a straightforward mystery plot, which demands attention to the concrete and material. But “Moonlight” feels more interesting when you allow the narrative to play out on the level of the symbolic, when its ideas borrow the hallucinatory quality of the landscape. At its heart, this is a story about family — whether it can survive in an inhospitable environment — and whether it is possible to be a good person in a corrupted world.
With the spirited Eliza at its heart, Pook’s evocative debut novel spins a tale of intrigue and deception with a deft combination of gripping pacing and emotional restraint. Travel writer and journalist Pook’s heightened observational skills are well employed in this lavish tableau showcasing Australia’s vast and exotic natural treasures and fraught history.
... lush ... Though the revelations about Charles’s disappearance feel a bit lackluster after all the adventure, the author offers plenty of sensory details and satisfying character development for Eliza. Overall, Pook casts an intoxicating spell.