Canongate has acquired the new adult novel from Scarlett Thomas, Oligarchy, billed as “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for the digital age”.
Canongate described it as a “fierce and brilliant new novel about power, privilege and peer pressure”. Publishing director Francis Bickmore acquired world rights including audio from Cathryn Summerhayes at Curtis Brown and publication is slated for November 2019 as a lead fiction hardback.
When Natasha, daughter of a Russian oligarch, arrives for her first day at an all-girl boarding school, she finds herself thrown into a world of fierce pecking orders, eating disorders and Instagram angst, the synopsis reads. Then her friend Bianca mysteriously vanishes, and the world of the school gets ever darker and stranger.
The cover design for Oligarchy has been designed by London-based designer Jon Gray, also known as gray318, whose design for The End of Mr Y, with its black sprayed edges, "has become one of the more iconic covers of recent years," Canongate said.
Bickmore said: “This staggeringly enjoyable novel is a whip-smart take on power and patriarchy, and specifically the pressure put on young women to fit in, join in, be thin, look cool, be liked – never greater than now. Think The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for the digital age, a British 'Heathers' or a literary 'Sex Education'. No one is writing fiction like Scarlett Thomas and Oligarchy is her best adult book since The End of Mr Y.”
Thomas described the book as "a no-holds-barred dark comedy", saying: “It’s my favourite thing I have ever written. Tash is a 15-year-old Russian girl who is ‘discovered’ by her newly rich father and then sent to England to a private school. When she gets there, she finds that the skinniest girls are given special treatment by the headmaster. With the help of her eccentric Aunt Sonja, and her diet-obsessed friends, Tash must try to stay alive and sane while she discovers what’s really going on.”
Meanwhile Summerhayes called it “a joyous thing, a totally brilliant, dark and wicked new novel for adults”.
Thomas’s previous books have sold over 230,000 copies, Canongate said, spanning both children’s titles and those for adults, including The End of Mr Y (Canongate). The fourth in her Worldquake children's book series was signed by Canongate last year and will be published in April 2020.