If you savour coming-of-age stories set between the wars in the crumbling stately homes of bohemian landowning families that explore the affairs, passions and ambitions of large casts of characters with magnificent period detail and poignant observation, then Joanna Quinn’s debut novel, The Whalebone Theatre, may well be your book of the summer.

Set in Dorset in England’s West Country, where Quinn grew up, the novel opens on the last day of 1919. Our heroine is Cristabel Seagrave, aged three, lonely and unloved, but fierce of spirit and sharp of mind. She is stamping through a quagmire of mud and snow, swishing around a stick like a sword, while the rest of the household is brimming with expectation...

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