Hamish Hamilton has snapped up what is arguably the hottest British book at this virtual Frankfurt Book Fair, with a six-figure pre-empt for Natasha Brown's "visionary and unflinching" début novel set over the course of a single day.
Editor Hermione Thompson bought UK and Commonwealth rights to Assembly from Emma Paterson at Aitken Alexander in a six-figure pre-empt. Meanwhile, North American rights were also pre-empted by Jean Garnett at Little, Brown, while translation rights have already sold to Suhrkamp (Germany), Grasset (France) and De Geus (the Netherlands), with submissions ongoing in multiple territories.
The narrator of the short novel—at under 80 pages during the submissions process—is an unnamed black British woman who has spent her life "climbing against the current: navigating the cut-throat world of investment banking, her boyfriend’s political ambitions and her best friend’s lean-in feminism. Until one day she is pulled up short by a life-and-death decision". Then, over the course of 24 hours, "she considers the assembled pieces of herself. Her mind darts across centuries, memories, snatches of conversation, and she begins to look hard at those who have spent their lives watching her".
Thompson said: "Natasha Brown is a writer who has no problem naming the elephant in the room and has no intention of waiting for you to catch up with her. With Assembly she reinvents what fiction can look like and what it can do, inspiring comparisons from Bernardine Evaristo to Claudia Rankine, from Patricia Lockwood to Jenny Offill with an extraordinary ease, wit, daring, lightness of touch, unfaltering gaze and unshakeable integrity. It is quite simply exhilarating to watch."
Brown worked in financial services after studying Maths at Cambridge University. She developed Assembly after receiving a 2019 London Writer Award, the annual development programme from charity Spread the Word for writers from backgrounds underrepresented in publishing.
Paterson called Assembly a "distilled and daring work of fiction that rearranges the reader as powerfully as it reconfigures the form of the novel itself. I was stunned when I first read it and it’s been hugely rewarding to see a similar reaction around the world. In Hamish Hamilton and Hermione Thompson, the novel has found its perfect home and champion."
Hamish Hamliton will release Assembly in July next year.
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