The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of 'Joe' Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water

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Overview

‘Joe’ Carstairs was born in London in 1900, the daughter of a Scottish colonel and an American heiress. Educated in Connecticut, she returned to Europe in 1916 and drove ambulances for the Women’s Legion in France. She deserted her husband at the church door (marriage was a prerequisite for her to receive her four million dollar inheritance) and settled in England where she took up racing, established a boat yard at Cowes, and won nearly every trophy going. In the ’30s she started traveling widely, finally moving to the West Indies where she

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Overview

‘Joe’ Carstairs was born in London in 1900, the daughter of a Scottish colonel and an American heiress. Educated in Connecticut, she returned to Europe in 1916 and drove ambulances for the Women’s Legion in France. She deserted her husband at the church door (marriage was a prerequisite for her to receive her four million dollar inheritance) and settled in England where she took up racing, established a boat yard at Cowes, and won nearly every trophy going. In the ’30s she started traveling widely, finally moving to the West Indies where she bought the island of Whale Cay. There she developed the island into a populated community, building everything from roads and schools to lighthouses and churches. Carstairs then succeeded in establishing hegemony over the five hundred islanders, controlling not only their sexual morals but also their diet. In 1944 she built a deepwater harbor for the Royal Navy’s use and, without a word to her population, left the island to build warcraft in Florida, where she settled for forty years, having run a steamship freightline and set up a chain of airports. Kate Summerscale’s brilliant biography brings out of obscurity a woman whose very boldness took her beyond fame and notoriety.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
In this superbly written biography, Summerscale brings to life the extraordinary and eccentric "Joe" Carstairs. A London Times bestseller and already nominated for the Whitbread Biography of the Year Prize, this volume takes empathetic hold of an enterprising, cross-dressing woman bent on devouring the world whole. Marion "Joe" Carstairs was heiress to the Standard Oil fortune and clearly predestined to eccentricity. Her childhood was emotionally arid. Her mother early succumbed to men, drink, and drugs. Marion was by nature a provocateur and lived to challenge the sexual morals of her day. By the 1920s she had seen the battlefield and the barroom, found her identity as a heavy-smoking, tattooed lesbian, distinguished herself as a record-breaking speedboat racer, and become the self-fashioned ruler of Whale Cay, a small Bahamian island she purchased with her considerable personal fortune. Any one of these might have made her unique; the combination made her positively fascinating. In a life "powered by her money, Joe lifted herself clear of censure by dint of nerve and speed." She lived and loved relentlessly, visibly, and famously. (The Windsors, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich were but a few of her cohorts.) But somewhere within was a heart the beat only for Lord Tod Wadley, a leather-faced, Steiff doll of a man to whom she was unendingly devoted. Their personalities were bizarrely entwined. Ultimately, Carstairsþs lust for privacy, and for control, was so great that it threatened to consume her. The dazzling and enigmatic life she led soon faded from view. Not until Summerscale, obituaries editor of the Daily Telegraph at the time of Carstairs's death in 1993, setout to research anomalies in the sketchy details of her life did it all come back. Stylistically restrained and well paced, this unforgettable tale of one woman's raw hunger for immortality needed no more than this eloquent telling to lift clear off the page. Captivating fun. (44 b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608199204
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 5/22/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 728,847
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Kate Summerscale is the author of the bestselling The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, which was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, and the upcoming Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace. She has also judged various literary competitions including the Booker Prize. She lives in London with her son.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2013

    Rowancloud

    If your clan needs a queen with kits, I can join my name is Rowancloud my mate is Crookedstep, a warrior eith a limp. I am a deep red she-cat and my mate is brown. Our kits are Hawkkit: Dark brown tabby tom Cloudkit: Red tabby she-cat Brokenkit: Golden tom with a broken foot (Warrior name: Brokenfoot) Snowkit: White she-cat tell me the name of the clan and what result to gi to

    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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