Transworld division Doubleday has won the fiercest-contested auction this Frankfurt Book Fair season, beating 15 other publishers and paying six figures for Bonnie Garmus' "vibrant, nostalgic" 1960s-set debut.
Editorial director Jane Lawson secured UK and Commonwealth rights excluding Canada, with exclusive Europe and audio, to Garmus' Lessons in Chemistry from Felicity Blunt at Curtis Brown. Meanwhile, US rights went to Doubleday in a "significant" deal and translation rights have sold at pre-empt or at auction in 21 territories in just over a week on submission. Doubleday will publish the novel in May 2022.
Lessons in Chemistry centres around "brave-hearted and irrepressibly logical" scientist and single mother Elizabeth Zott, who becomes the star of beloved US cooking show "Supper at Six", inspiring housewives across America to change their lives. It is both "a darkly witty reminder of the everyday sexism of the 1960s [and] an impassioned call-to-arms for standing up for what is right," Doubleday said.
Lawson called central character Zott "an inspiration for women everywhere, and I fell in love with her on the very first page. Her creator Bonnie Garmus is a true storyteller, with a magnificent sense of humour and a highly original mind. This luminous and hugely entertaining story is also a manifesto for truth and female empowerment, and a vehicle for riveting debate about science and faith. Bonnie Garmus is already a star."
Garmus is a Seattle-born copywriter and creative director who now lives in London. She began Lessons in Chemistry while on a Curtis Brown Creative course under tutor Charlotte Mendelson.
Transworld m.d. Larry Finlay said: "Lessons in Chemistry is not only life-affirming, but job-affirming. The kind of novel that drew me into publishing 37 years ago and keeps me there, hard at it, all these years later. And everyone right across Transworld is similarly smitten."
Blunt added that Garmus and Zott "are the antidote to so much of what we are struggling with in our own lives. Lessons in Chemistry is the novel that gives me faith in a happy future".
Garmus said: "At a time when integrity seems in alarmingly short supply, I wanted to write a book about a woman who refused to cede hers, no matter what the cost. My greatest hope is that Elizabeth Zott and her science-centric outlook on life, love, work and parenting will remind us of not only who we are, but what we're capable of becoming."