'The book of the summer' - The Sunday Times. Chosen as a book of 2022 by The Evening Standard, The Mirror, The Mail and The Express.
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 seems to be no place at all for her in Chilcombe, her family’s crumbling Dorset estate. But from the day that a whale washes up on the beach, and twelve-year-old Cristabel plants her flag, claiming 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 bedroom, 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, it becomes clear that the roles they are expected to play are no longer those they would choose for themselves. And as they are drawn into the conflict, they must each find a way to write their own story...