'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 through oak-panelled doors, and the esoteric lessons of Maudie their maid.
But as the children grow to adulthood and war approaches, jolting their lives on to very different tracks, it becomes clear that the roles they are 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...
'The circus playfulness of the language, the old story of the great house dazzlingly refreshed, the kind heart and the witty eye, the deep understanding of a girl's need to be the hero of her own life - this is a book that will be loved unreasonably and life-long, I believe, like I Capture The Castle.'
'Utterly captivating. An epic romp with characters you cannot help but fall in love with and a plot that takes you in all sorts of unexpected directions. Written with great heart, humour and humanity, it's the kind of book you want to escape normal life to read at every available opportunity.'
'The Whalebone Theatre has all the makings of a classic. And Cristabel Seagrave is the most gratifying hero. The war scenes often left me breathless: they are as good as you will ever read. A wonderful debut. Actually, a tour de force'