Out on 25 April 2024

Whale Fall

Elizabeth O'Connor

25 April 2024
224 pages


'I didn't want it to end' - Maggie O'Farrell
'An exquisite, evocative coming-of-age story that takes place in a world on the cusp of great change' - Observer

'Utterly exquisite' - Imogen Hermes Gowar

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.

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