Searching for Pearls
Published: April 2022
The desire for great change by “going on a journey and becoming a man” is the undertow of writer Benjamin Simon O’Neill’s immersive memoir Searching for Pearls, which charts his adventures in Australia as a young man seeking to find his limits and discover his own truth.
Beginning with his initial stuttering foray from New Zealand to Brisbane, Searching for Pearls dives deep when O’Neill seeks out a job as a jackaroo on a remote cattle station, working in heat and dust alongside “men with the bark on” (as he notes artist Frederic Remington would have called them).
O’Neill’s desire to grow the callouses of manhood and experience keep him travelling across Australia, finding strong connection with Indigenous peoples, becoming a pearl diver and through the appreciation of vast and rare Australian landscapes like Queensland’s Carnarvon Gorge.
No mere reportage, this is a memoir that evokes the honesty and adventure of A.B Facey’s A Fortunate Life and the wry, dry humour of Clive James’ Unreliable Memoirs. Because while each chapter brings the reader deeper into O’Neill’s experiences, what elevates Searching for Pearls is its vulnerability, honesty and attention to the little details. This is immersion in the memory rather than merely reminiscing; of taking life lessons that sing of something beyond the joy of taking a long journey.