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Jennie Rooney was born in Liverpool in 1980. She read History at the University of Cambridge and taught English in France before moving to London to work as a lawyer. Inside the Whale is her first novel.
Cambridge University in 1937 is awash with ideas and idealists - to unworldly Joan it is dazzling. After a chance meeting with Russian-born Sonya and Leo, Joan is swept up in the glamour and energy of the duo, and finds herself growing closer and closer to them both. But allegiance is a slippery thing. Out of university and working in a government ministry with access to top-secret information, Joan finds her loyalty tested as she is faced with the most difficult question of all: what price would you pay to remain true to yourself?
Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2008.Costa Book Awards 2008 Judges' comment: "This perfectly-formed debut novel is gentle, perceptive and moving."
At Niagara Falls, Toby O'Hara offers rides over the rushing water in a red and blue striped hot air balloon. The balloon is a day job for Toby, his night work is to continue to perfect his father's design for a flying machine. On the other side of the Atlantic, Ursula Bridgewater, an independent woman from Liverpool, is ungraciously dumped by her fiance. Ursula turns to the thrill of travel as an escape, and chooses a young orphan, Sally Walker, as her travelling companion. But Sally is never going to be quite as prepared for the land of freedom and opportunity as Ursula - and certainly not ready to accept Toby O'Hara's invitation to see Niagara from a great height. Together these indomitable characters are lifted by small acts of bravery to find - surprised and heartened - that what once seemed terrifying is in fact the opposite...
Stephanie Stanford, recently widowed, must tell her family the truth. But the past is complicated and difficult to untangle. Meanwhile, Michael's memories are squashed into a shoebox (along with Queen Mathilda's Dickin Medal for Bravery - for pigeons) ready for his move to hospital. Michael has never been good at putting things into words; he's more comfortable with the click of Morse code. But Anna, a young healthcare assistant, has the patience - and rare tenderness - to eke out his story. And so he begins.
Stephanie Sandford, recently widowed, must tell her family the truth - but the past is indistinct and it's complicated. First, there was her mum, who developed an anxious streak after marrying the wrong Reg. Then there was the young man from the dairy who taught Stevie to swim and broke her heart. War came, and four years spent chopping root vegetables in the canteen of the Sun Pat peanut factory on the Old Kent Road, followed by wet London nights, with the Doodle Bugs slipping through the sky like huge silvery fish. 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 (along with Queen Matilda's Dicken Medal for bravery) ready for his move into hospital. Years ago, he trained military carrier pigeons for the Royal Corps of Signals in Cairo so it's ironic that his own homecoming has taken a lifetime. Michael has never been good at putting things into words; he's more comfortable with the click of Morse code. But Anna, a young healthcare assistant, has the patience - and rare tenderness - to eke out his story. And so he begins. Stories have the power to change things, and this one will alter Stevie's past and transform Anna's future...