Hamish Hamilton has signed an “extraordinary” family history by poet and novelist Joe Dunthorne.
Daughter of Radium tells the story of Dunthorne’s great-grandfather, a talented Jewish chemist who started out by producing “radioactive toothpaste” in the 1920s and ended up developing far more sinister technologies, directing an experimental laboratory in what is now known as the most dangerous town in Germany.
Simon Prosser bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Georgia Garrett at RCW, to publish in hardback in autumn 2022.
The synopsis explains: “Armed only with his great-grandfather’s rambling, 2,000-page deathbed memoir and a handful of archive clues, Joe Dunthorne travels to modern-day Oranienburg—a place where hundreds of unexploded bombs remain hidden in the irradiated soil—to reckon with the remarkable, unsettling legacy of his family’s time there.”
Dunthorne's debut novel Submarine (Penguin) was published in 2008, and was followed by 2012 Encore Award winner Wild Abandon (Penguin). His most recent novel The Adulterants (Penguin) came out in 2018, and Faber published his book of poetry, O Positive, in 2019.
He said: “It’s fascinating and uncomfortable to be uncovering the parts of my great-grandfather’s life that he wanted to forget. Though he left behind a huge memoir, it’s really a masterpiece of avoidance. So while I’m interested in filling in the silences, I also want to explore the reasons for those omissions—the stories we tell in order to live with our own messy, imperfect selves.”
Prosser added: “Daughter of Radium represents an exciting departure into non-fiction for Joe: superbly written, balancing his trademark wit and humanity with a powerful resonance and clarity. And it offers a fascinating fresh perspective on a period of history we think we know.”