Allen Lane has won a four-way auction for a “vivid and unexpected” group biography of four creative pioneers by Harriet Baker.
Chloe Currens, senior commissioning editor at Penguin Press, bought UK and Commonwealth rights to Rural Hours, a group biography of Virginia Woolf, Dora Carrington, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Rosamond Lehmann, from Harriet Moore at David Higham Associates. Allen Lane will publish the book in 2023.
The synopsis explains: “Rural Hours is a group biography of four interwar women, three writers and one artist, who were each transformed by a period of rural living. Drawing on their garden maps and recipe books, journals and laundry lists, personal letters and published works, Harriet Baker reconstructs the country lives of Woolf, Carrington, Warner and Lehmann, and shows how England’s rural landscapes – as much as its city streets – were places of creative exploration, radical thinking and experimental living.”
Baker's writing has appeared in the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the Financial Times, Apollo, and frieze. She is a recipient of the Biographers’ Club Tony Lothian Prize.
She said: "For these four women, country life was not a life of retreat but rather of intense engagement – with new landscapes, domestic arrangements, political and sexual identities, and literary forms. In writing this book, I have looked to their archives to craft a form of biography centred on the everyday, on domestic dramas and household texts, to reveal daily lives of immense creativity and commitment. I’m thrilled to be publishing these women’s rural hours with Penguin Press."
Currens added: “We couldn’t be happier to be publishing Harriet Baker’s marvellous debut. Rural Hours is a delightful, deeply empathetic portrait of four creative pioneers, which makes a compelling argument for the quiet pleasures and radicalism of rural living – for ‘country life as a state of mind’. With her fluid prose and deft handling of archival material, Harriet conjures each of her subjects in vivid and unexpected ways, showing how, counterintuitively, embracing domestic life in the countryside granted new freedoms to them all”.
Moore commented: “I'm so pleased Harriet Baker's original and revelatory first book with its radical intentions and methods, and pursuit of a total aesthetic of work and home, will be published with artfulness and imagination by Penguin Press.”
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