HarperFiction has bought a “brilliant, dark debut novel” which explores the many identities women “juggle” throughout life from former agent Hannah Begbie, inspired by her son’s cystic fibrosis.
Martha Ashby, editorial director at HarperFiction, has bought world English rights to Mother, plus one other from Veronique Baxter at David Higham Associates. It will be published in 2018.
The novel follows Cath after she discovers her newborn daughter, Mia, has a deadly illness. Cath’s despair takes her to a parental support group where she meets a father in a similar situation, the “dangerously attractive” Richard who promises a cure for their children. As Cath falls headlong into their affair, she must question her many identities – woman, wife, mother, lover – and which must take precedence.
Begbie was an agent at United Agents where, for 15 years until December 2014, she represented BAFTA and Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning writers and comedians. She developed the manuscript for Mother whilst studying at the Novel Studio course at City University in London and went on to win that year’s new writing prize.
Begbie said: “The idea for the story began with the painful experience of having my newborn son diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. However, as I developed the story into fiction, the scope of the novel broadened to explore themes of identity and motherhood, adultery, grief and redemption achieved at a high price.”
Ashby said: “Hannah’s writing grabbed me by the throat from the very first page and in her brutal examination of the roles that women play, her novel is at the same time both raw with emotion and deeply thought-provoking. I’m so thrilled to bring such a talented voice to HarperFiction.”
Baxter revealed Mother “is a book you don’t forget in a hurry: unflinching, dark and deeply compelling, it moved me profoundly”.