The Whalebone Theatre

The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn is a charming debut novel set in a British country estate between the wars, like Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. In 1928, a dead whale washes up on a beach near the Chilcombe estate, where 12-year-old Cristabel Seagrave claims it for her own. An orphan who is frequently neglected by her stepparents and governess, Cristabel and her siblings, Flossie and Digby, turn the whale skeleton into an impromptu theatre. Surrounded by its huge bones, they act out Shakespeare's plays, with the help of Taras, a visiting artist. Years later, the imaginative world that Cristabel, Flossie, and Digby built at Chilcombe is thrown apart by World War II. Flossie joins the Women’s Land Army, while Digby and Cristabel join the secret service and are sent on missions deep in Nazi-occupied France, where they must put the imaginative acting skills honed in the Whalebone Theatre to the test.