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'The Whalebone Theatre is a lush, roving, William Boyd-style novel...Full of brilliant set pieces that pop and crackle with tension. . . . Quinn handles her sprawling cast with ease and compassion. . . . Slightly alarmingly, it is Joanna Quinn’s debut—how on earth is she this good?' —The Times 

'Far and away my favourite novel of the year . . . Love, grief, and comedy in perfect balance: it’s hard to believe that this accomplished novel comes from a first-timer.' —Mick Herron, author of Slow Horses

'An absolute treat of a book, to be read and reread . . . Generous, filling, deeply satisfying, funny-sad, every page crammed with life and experience. . . . Quinn is one of those writers who has her finger on humanity’s pulse.' —The Sunday Times 

'It’s astonishing to discover that this beguiling story is Joanna Quinn’s first novel. . . . It’s touching, enthralling, and superbly written—an extraordinary book that deserves to be read and re-read.' —The Independent

'What’s remarkable, especially for a first novel, is Quinn’s deft way of depicting this lost world. . . . Her vision is so fine and fully realized that it’s hard to imagine her doing anything else—and hard to have to wait to see what that might be.' —Washington Post


'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.'

Francis Spufford, author of Light Perpetual

Durdle Door, Dorset. 

'Destined to become a classic. . . . Elegantly written and totally immersive, this is escapism fiction at its very best. . . . Quinn’s debut is a wonder.' —Daily Mail

'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'

Sarah Winman, author of Still Life

'A supremely accomplished feat of storytelling. . . . The pages fly by.' —Minneapolis Star Tribune

'The Whalebone Theatre will feel like a much-loved book even if you’re reading it for the first time . . . Wild and wilful Cristabel was the perfect heroine.' ―Sarra Manning, Red Magazine 

'Gorgeous . . . Delightful . . . Quinn’s imagination and adventuresome spirit are a pleasure to behold, boding more commanding work to come.' —New York Times

'Playful, inventive, sharp, funny, The Whalebone Theatre offers the sort of reading experience that is remarkably rare, even for those of us whose happiest hours are spent with books: sheer, undiluted delight from start to finish.  It’s impossible not to be charmed by this book, its cast of characters, and Quinn’s constantly striking prose. It is both reassuringly familiar, and startlingly new. '

Susan Elderkin, author of The Novel Cure 

Pulpit Rock, Portland Bill.

'Dazzling. . . . Peacetime whimsy gracefully segues into scenes of unbearable tension and heart-wrenching suspense. . . . A reading experience to be long cherished.' —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

'Magnificent. As capacious, surprising and magical as the whale that lends its bones to Cristabel's theatre: a tale of intertwined lives and braided fates as deftly managed and heartbreaking as a Dickens' novel.'

Rebecca Stott, Costa-winning author of In The Days of Rain

 '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.'

Elizabeth Day, author of Magpie


‘Can there be a better proscenium arch than the salvaged ribs of a beached whale? Framed by these giant bones, Quinn’s story passes like a fabulous pageant, richly coloured and packed with incident, taking us from the lonely and orthodox Dorset childhood of the extraordinary Cristabel to the poignant aftermath of her heroic Second World War. Quinn has a sublime touch: Cristabel and her troupe are unforgettable, as riotous in comedy as they are heart-breaking in tragedy

Frances Liardet, author of We Must Be Brave

View from White Nothe, Dorset

The coastpath near Osmington


A Dorset wood filled with wild garlic flowers

Sutton Poyntz

A stone sign saying Smugglers Path on a cliff edge in Dorset

Smugglers Path, White Nothe

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