Whale fall


A haunting, atmospheric novel about desire, duty and broken promises among an island community caught in the wave of history as Europe falls into war.

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‘I didn’t want it to end’ – Maggie O’Farrell
‘Powerful . . . written with a calm, luminous precision’ – Colm Tóibìn
An Observer Best Debut of the Year 2024

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.

‘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

Additional information

Dimensions 19.7 × 13 cm