Joanna Quinn

The Whalebone Theatre
  • The Whalebone Theatre

  • 'Maudie, why are all the best characters men?'
    Maudie closes the book with a clllump. 'We haven't read all the books yet, Miss Cristabel. I can't believe that every story is the same'

    Cristabel Seagrave has always wanted her life to be a story, but there are no girls in the books in her dusty family library. For an unwanted orphan who grows into an unmarriageable young woman, there is no place at all for her in a traditional English manor.

    But from the day that a whale washes up on the beach at the Chilcombe estate in Dorset, and twelve-year-old Cristabel plants her flag and claims it as her own, she is determined to do things differently.

    With her step-parents blithely distracted by their endless party guests, Cristabel and her siblings, Flossie and Digby, scratch together an education from the plays they read in their freezing attic, drunken conversations eavesdropped on through oak-panelled doors, and the esoteric lessons of Maudie their maid.

    With the arrival of a troupe of aspiring bohemians, Cristabel determines to transform the whale's skeleton into an open-air theatre: a place where her imagination can take flight and she can escape the stifling confines of the house. For as the children grow to adulthood and war approaches, jolting their lives on to very different tracks, it becomes clear that the roles they were expected to play are no longer those they want. As they find themselves drawn into the conflict, they must each find a way to write their own story...

Joanna Quinn is based in Dorset, where her debut novel, The Whalebone Theatre, takes place. She has previously had short stories published by The White Review, Comma Press, New Welsh Review and the Bridport Prize. She was chosen as an emerging writer as part of the Arvon/Jerwood mentoring scheme and was one of four writers shortlisted for the national Arts Foundation Fellowship for Short Stories. She is currently working towards a PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths.

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