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  • Location: Chilcombe, Dorset

The Whalebone Theatre

The Whalebone Theatre

Why a Booktrail?

2000s: Stories within stories abound!

  • ISBN: 978-0241542835
  • Genre: Coming of Age, Historical

What you need to know before your trail

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…

Travel Guide

Chilcombe in Dorset

The estate in the novel is ficitonal but it sounds amazing! The estate is supposed to be close to a beach where they find the whale, but the nearest beach is Hive Beach.

‘Outside, the summer burns on. The sunlight through the floral curtains tinges the room with pink like the inside of a conch shell or the fleshy glow of the world as seen by a child with its fingers pressed over its eyes.’

‘When the sun finally starts to set, they walk back through the woods […]. The footpath is cracked and dusty. Although there are a few weeks left of summer, the countryside is already drying out. The fields around Chilcombe are pale as straw, the hedgerows full of papery seedpods and feathery grasses; things are coming apart from themselves, fraying at the edges.’

“The woods to the west of Chilcombe, mostly elegant beech trees with a few oaks and pines, now stand in a sea of bluebells, a flood of flowers lit up by sunlight filtering through new leaves. Here and there are clumps of geometric bracken and the white pompom bursts of wild garlic flowers, filling the air with their profligate scent. “

Trail Gallery

Booktrailer Review

What a lovely and whimsical novel. A tapestry read if that makes sense. Lots of threads and ideas that come together and weave in and out like a thread.

I love how the book is separated into acts like a real play That worked really well and the book was a delight in that way. There’s two main themes where we meet some friends putting on Shakespeare plays in the bones of a whale hence the title. That was just wonderful. What a great idea! Then there’s the chapters about the war and the friends are now secret agents  living throughout the war fighting Nazis. As I said, a tapestry.

The setting is the theatre of course but it’s so much orethan than with th wartime scenes and the beach of Chilcombe in Dorset.


BookTrail Boarding Pass: The Whalebone Theatre

Destination/Location: Chilcombe, Dorset, France  Author: Joanna Quinn  Departure: 1940s

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