Chatto & Windus has pre-empted a debut novel inspired by Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream.
Publishing director Clara Farmer acquired world rights to The Strawberry Girl by Lisa Strømme from Bill Hamilton at A M Heath.
The novel is set in 1893 in a small fishing community in the Norwegian fjords, and is narrated by a young girl, Johanne Lien, who bears witness to the tumultuous love affair that led Edvard Munch to paint The Scream.
Sent to work for a wealthy family, Johanne is befriended by the beautiful youngest daughter, Tullik Ihlen, who is desperate for sexual and emotional adventure. Johanne acts as a go-between for Tullik to meet and seduce the infamous artist Munch, whose habits the local community regard as ‘sinful’.
The crisis that results when the truth is out ends Johanne’s innocence, undermines Tullik’s sanity and potentially destroys Munch’s work and what is left of his reputation.
Farmer said: “The Strawberry Girl is an enchanting and highly gripping debut set on an irresistible coastline, as beguiling as Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. I loved Lisa Strømme’s confident, pared-back style the moment I started reading – and the second my colleagues finished we were all googling flights to Norway.
“The Scream must be one of the most famous pictures in the world – and as a consequence we think we know Munch – but Lisa’s book is full of surprises and this is a book filled with tenderness, not angst. Although her story is fictional, much of it is based in truth, and I hope that readers and reading groups will enjoy exploring the rich seam where fact ends and fiction begins.”
Strømme said: “The story was inspired by a number of things, most obviously, Edvard Munch. Living in Norway, it’s hard to ignore him, as he has such a constant cultural presence. When The Scream sold at auction in 2012 for a record-breaking figure, I was suddenly intrigued, and wanted to know more about Munch and what it was that made this disturbing painting so universally appealing.”
The Strawberry Girl will be published in summer 2016.