Isabel Allende has moved from Simon & Schuster UK to Bloomsbury following a six-publisher auction for a "hugely ambitious" new novel, which Bloomsbury says will bring the novelist to a "whole new, much broader readership in the UK".
The deal was negotiated by Peggy Boulos Smith of Writers House, on behalf of Johanna V Castillo of Writers House, and Carmen Balcells Literary Agency. Smith sold UK and Commonwealth rights to A Long Petal of the Sea to Bloomsbury publishing director Alexis Kirschbaum, after a six-publisher auction. North American rights went to Jennifer Hershey, editor-in-chief at Ballantine, also at auction.
Spanning four generations, A Long Petal of the Sea is a rich historical saga inspired by events and people from Allende's own life. It tells the story of Victor Dalmau, a young doctor who is caught up on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. “Together with his sister-in-law, the pianist Roser Bruguera, he is forced out of his beloved Barcelona and into exile,” the synopsis reads. “When opportunity to seek refuge in Chile arises, they take it, arriving on the other side of the world on the same day as the Second World War breaks out in Europe.”
Bloomsbury will publish A Long Petal of the Sea, accompanied by a major marketing and publicity campaign, in January 2020.
Allende's books have sold over 74 million copies worldwide, Bloomsbury said, making her one of the most widely read authors in the world. According to Nielsen BookScan, the California-based writer has sold 950,576 books sold for £7.09m through Nielsen BookScan's UK TCM. The 76-year-old has been published by Simon & Schuster UK for the last three years. Her recent sales have dipped in the UK- The Japanese Lover sold strongly in 2016 with the paperback shifting 34,266 copies however 2018’s In the Midst of Winter (both S&S UK) only sold 8,419.
Allende, who was born in Peru and raised in Chile, said of the deal with Bloomsbury: “I am honoured and delighted that my new novel will be published by Bloomsbury. I could not be in more prestigious hands. A Long Petal of the Sea is a story about war, displacement, love and the longing for a safe home. It’s about the plight of people in dark times and it mirrors what we are seeing today in the world. If we are not watchful, the worst of history repeats itself."
Kirschbaum said: “I am honoured to have acquired this extraordinary book by Isabel Allende, who can only be described as a 'literary legend'. The romance of her writing, the sweeping historical vistas upon which her characters’ lives unfold, the violence, love, birth and death – all of human life is there.
“A Long Petal of the Sea is a love letter to Chile and a historical masterpiece. Hugely ambitious in its scope, it would seem to me to be a highlight of her oeuvre. We cannot wait to bring this novel to a whole new, much broader readership in the UK than she has enjoyed in the past.”
In 2014, Allende received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama, and in 2018 was given the National Book Award's Lifetime Achievement Award.