Fourth Estate has pre-empted a debut novel by Cecile Pin, editorial assistant at Jonathan Cape, just 24 hours after submission.
Kishani Widyaratna, editorial director, acquired British Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, for Wandering Souls in physical, e-book and audio from Matt Turner at RCW Literary Agency. It will publish in spring 2023 as a lead debut.
The UK deal was followed swiftly by a 24-hour pre-empt for French rights by Editions Stock and a flurry of further pre-empts in North America from Ruby Rose Lee at Holt, in Germany from Atlantik/Hoffmann und Campe and from Hollands Diep for Dutch language rights.
It is described by the publisher as "a heart-breaking portrait of one family and a novel that explores the power of stories to heal wounds that span generations". The book was inspired by the author’s family history and archival research.
The synopsis said: "One night not long after the last American troops leave Vietnam siblings Anh, Thanh and Minh flee their village, embarking on a perilous boat journey to Hong Kong. Their parents and four younger siblings make the crossing in another vessel but as weeks go by it becomes clear that only one party has survived the voyage. Anh, Thanh and Minh suddenly find themselves without family or home, forced to confront new identities as refugees. Haunted by grief and survivor’s guilt, they journey on alone, navigating refugee camps and resettlement centres until, by a twist of fate, they arrive in the UK. Here they must somehow build new lives for themselves with only each other to turn to, but will that be enough in a place that doesn’t want them? Their faltering journey is deftly interwoven with the voice of their lost younger brother Dao, following them from a place between the living and the dead, and the records of an unknown researcher intent on gathering together the strands of their story.
Widyaratna said: "I read Wandering Souls in one sitting and was completely floored by the heart-wrenching story of these three siblings as they are thrown into lives of unexpected loss and unmooring. Cecile Pin’s debut is a searingly beautiful work of remarkable depth and daring, full of searching questions about trauma and refuge, family and love, and the stories we inherit and the ones we write ourselves. Cecile is a blazing new talent and one all of us at Fourth Estate could not be prouder to welcome to the list."
Pin grew up in Paris and New York City before moving to London at 18 to study philosophy at University College London, followed by an MA at King’s College London. She is currently editorial assistant at Jonathan Cape. She also writes for Bad Form Review, was longlisted for its Young Writer’s prize and is a London Writers Awards 2021 winner.
She said: "I couldn’t be happier to be working with Fourth Estate on Wandering Souls. I’ve long admired Kishani Widyaratna’s publishing and I’m thrilled to be joining her list. My thanks go out to her, to Matt Turner and the RCW rights team for championing the book so passionately, from its early days."
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