Whale Fall (Hardback)
  • Whale Fall (Hardback)
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Whale Fall (Hardback)

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Hardback 224 Pages
Published: 25/04/2024
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Waterstones Says

Stunningly evocative of remote island life at the end of the 1930s, O'Connor's exquisite debut mines themes of belonging and betrayal as young Manod sees the arrival of two anthropologists as an opportunity to escape to the mainland.

It is 1938 and for Manod, a young woman living on a remote island off the coast of Wales, the world looks ready to end just as she is trying to imagine a future for herself. The ominous appearance of a beached whale on the island's shore, and rumours of submarines circling beneath the waves, have villagers steeling themselves for what’s to come. Empty houses remind them of the men taken by the Great War, and of the difficulty of building a life in the island's harsh, salt-stung landscape.

When two anthropologists from the mainland arrive, Manod sees in them a rare moment of opportunity to leave the island and discover the life she has been searching for. But, as she guides them across the island’s cliffs, she becomes entangled in their relationship, and her imagined future begins to seem desperately out of reach.

Elizabeth O’Connor’s beautiful, devastating debut Whale Fall tells a story of longing and betrayal set against the backdrop of a world on the edge of great tumult.

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 9781035024728
Number of pages: 224
Weight: 292 g
Dimensions: 207 x 139 x 24 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

Evocative and haunting . . . written with a care and restraint that is rare in a debut novel. It teems with visceral imagery - Jude Cook, Guardian

O’Connor’s beautifully evocative debut explores the liminal spaces between aspiration and disappointment, adolescence and adulthood, land and sea . . . a highly impressive coming-of-age tale - The Observer

An excellent debut . . . Brief but complete, the book is an example of precisely observed writing that makes a character’s specific existence glimmer with verisimilitude . . . To different eyes, the same island might look like a prison or a romantic enclave, but to actually apprehend the truth of a place or person requires patience, nuanced attention and the painstaking accrual of details. Understanding is hard work, O’Connor suggests, especially when we must release our preconceptions. While the researchers fail to grasp this, Manod does not, and her reward by book’s end, painfully earned, is a new and thrilling resolve. - Maggie Shipstead, New York Times

A beautifully nuanced, beguiling first novel, which leaves room for hope. O’Connor has a promising career ahead - The Times

An astonishingly assured debut that straddles many polarities: love and loss, the familiar and the strange, trust and betrayal, land and sea, life and death. O’Connor has created a beguiling and beguiled narrator in Manod: I loved seeing the world through her eyes, and I didn’t want it to end - Maggie O'Farrell, author of Hamnet and The Marriage Portrait

An exquisite, evocative coming-of-age story that takes place in a world on the cusp of great change - The Observer, Debuts of the Year 2024

A powerful novel, written with a calm, luminous precision, each feeling rendered with chiselled care, the drama of island life unfolding with piercing emotional accuracy - Colm Tóibín, author of The Magician and Brooklyn

The quiet cadences of Whale Fall contain a deep melody of loss held and let go. It is a gentle, tough story about profound change - Anne Enright, Booker Prize winning author of The Wren, the Wren

Quietly powerful first novel . . . Writing with graceful minimalism . . . O’Connor gently pulls together the book’s threads, evoking the mismatch between hidebound locals and fleet-footed incomers whose passing whims exact a heavy emotional toll - Daily Mail

I absolutely adored Whale Fall, I fell completely under its spell. Every sentence rang with clarity and authenticity. It's a triumph - Elizabeth Macneal, bestselling author of The Doll Factory

This poised debut balances betrayal and loss with change and self-realisation - Mail on Sunday

A haunting, unhurried, unusual debut, that vividly evokes the life of a teenage girl on a sparsely populated Welsh island in 1938 . . . O’Connor offers a clear-eyed exploration of our tendency to fetishize the rural, the isolated, and what it means to become an object of study - Joanna Quinn, author of The Whalebone Theatre

O’Connor’s spare, incisive prose brings the island to vivid life — both its frequent devastations as well as its resolute continuity . . . Beguiling and compelling - Boston Globe

Mesmerising. A novel with such presence, both wild and still: utterly exquisite - Imogen Hermes Gowar, author of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

Whale Fall moves like a tide, ebbing and flowing . . . transporting and utterly beautiful - Seán Hewitt, author of All Down Darkness Wide

I devoured the exquisite Whale Fall. Immersive, elegiac and silvered with salt - beautiful - Lizzie Pook, author of Maude Horton's Glorious Revenge

An evocative, slow-burn tale - The Bookseller, Editor's Choice

A beautiful meditation on the profound effects of seeing and being seen - Kirkus

O'Connor's precise and spare prose feels at once claustrophobic and full of possibility, while emulating the interior of her yearning protagonist. A notable debut imbued with the pain of buried promise - Booklist

Genuine and captivating, Whale Fall has a wonderful blend of complexity and heart that will give every reader something to think about for weeks after finishing it - Michigan Daily

[O'Connor] conjures up a mood of things on the cusp: adulthood, the end of a community, and, given the time it’s set, war. It’s also a period when competing ideologies froth and broil against each other, and O’Connor captures all this, and more, in the subtlest of shades - Crack Magazine

Slender but vibrant, like a watercolour painted outside - Perspective

Brewing with erotic tension and set against a breathtaking, thankless, windswept landscape, Whale Fall beautifully captures that knot of contradicting feelings we have on the cusp of adulthood, wishing to leave the place of one’s birth - Something Curated

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“Beautiful and other worldly”

Thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy!
This book is a fantastic peek into island life and the differences between it and living on the mainland.
It shows emotion and fear as the thought of war spreads... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 6

“A quiet gasp of air on a cold Sunday morning”

Thank you to the publisher for an advance copy of this book.

A mesmerising, poignant debut about community, encroachment and nature. This book astounded me in all of the quiet ways an excellent book does. Told... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 6

“An Art House Film in Book Form”

A beautifully written debut. Set on a remote island off Wales, Manod’s way of life, and that of the other inhabitants, is becoming out of step with the rest of the UK. O’Connor writes of a community in decline, of... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 5

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