Canongate editorial director Francis Bickmore has acquired a new novel by James Meek, author of The People's Act of Love, terming it "a 21st-century Anna Karenina".
Bickmore bought world rights (excluding the US and Canada) to The Heart Broke In from Natasha Fairweather at A P Watt, and will publish in September.
US rights went to Courtney Hodell at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, with Iris Tupholme acquiring Canada rights for HarperCollins. The book will be published simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Heart Broke In is described as "a riveting exploration of what conscience means in the 21st century", with its characters including a scientist obsessed with evolution but unable to have children, a malaria researcher trying to choose between freedom and love, and a washed-up TV-Svengali whose life goes into freefall.
Bickmore called the novel "a gloriously seductive contemporary drama as well as an old-fashioned tale of modern times," saying it was "full of scandal, moral dilemmas, love and sacrifice, like a 21st-century Anna Karenina," which "encloses a tender and redemptive love story". He added: "It feels to us all here that with its filmic sweep and dynamic cast of characters—ranging from the everyday heroic to the downright despicable—this is a book likely to bring James Meek droves of new readers. Fans of William Boyd, Ian McEwan and Jeffrey Eugenides, here is your new favourite author."
Hodell called the book "a big-hearted epic in the manner of Tolstoy". Meek is the author of four novels, including The People's Act of Love (2005)—which won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize—and We Are Now Beginning Our Descent (2008), both of which were published by Canongate.