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, and a book you'll want to recommend with passion to everyone you know.
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. And then there was the young man from the dairy who gave Stevie swimming lessons before he broke her heart. War came, and four years chopping root vegetables in the canteen of the Sun Pat peanut factory on the Old Kent Road. Then the 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.
“Rooney, who's only 27, is fresh, funny and wise, balancing the emotional turmoil with a vivid turn of phrase”
“A work of a singularly outlandish and compassionate imagination...the novel has one shouting its praises to anybody who is within earshot”
“Packed full of warm, spirited prose that captures the mood of doodlebug London, this is a total joy of a debut novel”
“An elegant, funny and moving first novel... a wonderful, memorable musing on life, fate and love”
“The best things in life this month ... this heartfelt debut novel offers a witty twist on a WWII romance”
“Wonderful debut novel ... Guaranteed to sweep you away”
“A deeply affecting story ... Rooney confidently moves between two narrators and shifting times, vividly recreating Blitz-torn London and the Africa of the same period”
“It is funny, deceptively ambitious, robustly detailed and extremely sad”
The Sunday Times
“Add this to your list', 'this vivid story of lost love is tender, funny and hugely entertaining.”
Comfort Reads (Horlicks promotion), Marie Claire