Results of the Costa Book Award in the year 2008.
A mesmerizing portrait of 1950s hypocrisy and unexpected love, from a powerful new voice
It is 1957, and Lewis Aldridge, straight out of prison, is journeying back to his home in Waterford, a suburban town outside London. He is nineteen years old, and his return will have dramatic consequences not just for his family, but for the whole community.
A decade earlier, his father’s homecoming has a very different effect. The war is over and Gilbert has been demobilized. He reverts easily to suburban life—cocktails at six-thirty, church on Sundays—but his wife and young son resist the stuffy routine. Lewis and his mother escape to the woods for picnics, just as they did in wartime days. Nobody is surprised that Gilbert’s wife counters convention, but they are all shocked when, after one of their jaunts, Lewis comes back without her. …[more]
From her lookout on the first floor, Ginny watches and waits for her adored younger sister to return to the crumbling mansion that was once their idyllic childhood home. Vivien has not stepped foot in the house since she left, forty seven years ago; Ginny, the reclusive lepidopterist, has rarely ventured outside it. The remembrance of their youth, of loss, and of old rivalries plays across Ginny’s mind. Why is Vivi coming home? Ginny has been selling off the family furniture over the years, gradually shutting off each wing of the house and retreating into the precise routines and isolation that define her days. Only the attic remains untouched. There, collected over several generations, are walls lined with pinned and preserved Bordered Beauties and Rusty Waves, Feathered Footmen and Great Brocades, Purple Cloud, Angle Shades, the Gothic and the Stranger… With Vivien's arrival, long-forgotten memories are stirred up, and the secrets that have separated the sisters threaten to disrupt much more than Ginny's carefully ordered world.
MGB officer Leo is a man who never questions the Party Line. He arrests whomever he is told to arrest. He dismisses the horrific death of a young boy because he is told to, because he believes the Party stance that there can be no murder in Communist Russia. Leo is the perfect soldier of the regime.
But suddenly his confidence that everything he does serves a great good is shaken. He is forced to watch a man he knows to be innocent be brutally tortured. And then he is told to arrest his own wife.
Leo understands how the State works: Trust and check, but check particularly on those we trust. He faces a stark choice: his wife or his life.
And still the killings of children continue…
Inside the Whale marks the arrival of a blazing new talent: fizzing with eclectic characters and poignant imagery, her heart-wrenching debut novel is a story to relish.
Stephanie Sandford, recently widowed, must tell her family the truth. But the past is indistinct and it’s complicated. There was Mum, who married the wrong Reg. And there was the young man from the dairy who gave Stevie swimming lessons before he broke her heart. War came, and four years were spent chopping root vegetables in the canteen of the Sun Pat peanut factory on the Old Kent Road. It’s not until she’s under an umbrella with Jonathan—dark hair and seaweed eyes—that Stevie finally starts to sense safety.
Meanwhile, Michael Royston’s memories are squashed into a shoebox, ready for his move into the hospital. Years ago he…[more]