Allen & Unwin has signed the first book by journalist Anna-Marie Crowhurst in a "major acquisition" which signals a "strong move towards upmarket historical fiction" for the Atlantic Books imprint.
Senior editor Sam Brown acquired UK and Commonwealth (excluding Canada) rights at auction to The Illumination of Ursula Flight in a two-book deal from Hellie Ogden at Janklow & Nesbit UK.
The Illumination of Ursula Flight was written as part of the Bath Spa MA in Creative Writing with Crowhurst's supervisor, writer Tessa Hadley, describing it as "a spirited romp" which is "fluent, accomplished, polished, funny and charming."
Brown said: "Oh, how I love this novel! Who could resist a charming, droll (and just a little bit bawdy) picaresque tale of one woman's coming of age both on and off the stage in 17th-century England? Funny, whip smart and so full of passion, Ursula instantly captured my heart and imagination and I’m thrilled to be working with Anna-Marie to share her with the world. You’ll be hearing a lot more about this wonderfully sparky character and her story in the months to come.
"This is a major acquisition for the Allen & Unwin list, signalling a strong move towards upmarket historical fiction. Our recent announcement about the new Minette Walters novel was the first step down this path. The Illumination of Ursula Flight will be a key publication for the first half of 2018 and Anna-Marie’s second book will follow in 2019."
Crowhurst said: "I am fascinated by the giddy, heady, sexy Restoration era and its effect on the creative arts – especially for women, who were newly allowed to act on the English stage. I wanted to explore the experience of a woman of the time, battling the same things we all do: scoundrels, bounders, bad luck and heartbreak. This is a tale of girlhood, interrupted and triumph over the adversities of an age."
Ogden added: "This is a very special debut; sensual, gutsy storytelling at its best and I know Sam Brown and the team at Allen & Unwin will do a marvellous job bringing Ursula and her world to life."
Crowhurst has worked as a freelance fashion and culture journalist for more than 15 years, contributing to The Times, The Guardian, Time Out, Newsweek, Stylist and Emerald Street, for whom she currently covers books, entertainment and lifestyle.
Allen & Unwin will publish The Illumination of Ursula Flight in hardback in May 2018.