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The Whalebone Theatre

Joanna Quinn


_The Whalebone Theatre_ is a book best read in just a few sittings. It has a breathtaking narrative, carrying the reader swiftly along. It is actually two stories; one about a group of rather wild children and bohemian adults living in a stately home in Dorset, creating a theatre and staging plays in a whale carcass, and the other is about the same characters as young adults, acting as spies in France in the Second World War. The characters are interesting and the plot gripping. The author, a teacher of creative writing, uses a range of literary devices, including switching between the past and present tenses, switching perspectives, and switching media. The book contains not only narrative but also letters, newspaper cuttings and even a catalogue from an art exhibition. The writing also contains beautiful and unusual imagery, such as a person who is described as being ‘as round and satisfied as a broad bean popped from a pod’ and ‘The silver barrage balloons float in the night air like giant tethered fish.’ Another interesting point is the strand of feminism running through the novel. ‘Why are all the best characters men?’ the girl asked, and in the rest of the book Joanna Quinn goes on to show how it doesn’t have to be that way.


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