Constance Blackchurch abandoned all decorum and started to run.
Her books pressed close against her, bonnet loose and hanging around her neck, she ran. Down the Butterwalk arcade with its granite pillars, and round into narrow Farmer’s Lane with its uneven cobbles that threatened to trip her. Her heart thudded, her blood was hot. The sea breeze barely cooled the close summer heat; perspiration trickled down her neck.
It is 1799. Constance Blackchurch rails against the conventions that govern her life. Why must she learn French when she’d rather learn Astronomy? Why is her father always away at sea? Even when he’s briefly home in England, he seems to think her a nuisance. In the waters of southern India, a youth dives further and for longer than all the other pearl divers. Yet he is conscious that India is not his home, not where he belongs. Both Constance and Alexandre are constrained by their circumstances and their fate. Then Constance’s father makes a rare rash decision to return to India to search for her mother. Add a lonely colonial girl, a dishonest, gambling opportunist and the wilds of the ocean and the adventure begins.
The Pearl Hunters is a romantic and exciting tale of life at sea and in the East, set in a time when life in England seemed bound up with propriety and convention. Constance is sixteen years old, and although she’s grown up without her mother and only occasionally sees her father, has been well cared-for and educated beyond the level common for girls of her generation. In contrast, Alexandre has had few opportunities and to all intents has spent his life so far as a chattel of first one, then a second, owner. But he too has had some education. Kim Wilkins explores notions of captivity and freedom from multiple points of view. We see a different view of the same world from Constance, Alexandre, Constance’s father and De Locke, Alexandre’s ‘owner’. Each viewpoint character has their own chapter, but it is Constance’s view which is most frequent. Recommended for junior- to mid-secondary readers.
The Pearl Hunters, by Kim Wilkins
Omnibus Books 2008