John Murray has acquired a “brilliant literary debut from a bold new voice in British fiction”.
Publisher Roland Philipps bought UK and Commonwealth rights to Motherland by Jo McMillan from Sophie Lambert at Conville & Walsh.
Described as a “fresh, moving, original and funny novel set in the West Midlands”, Motherland follows Jess, who is 13 in 1978 and has a reputation already – as the of the only communist in town.
Jess and her mother Eleanor spend every spare moment selling socialism to Tamworth, a sleepy Midlands town that simply doesn't want to know. When Eleanor is invited to spend a summer teaching in East Germany, she and Jess leap at the chance to see what the future looks like. They cross the Iron Curtain and turn instantly from villains into heroes.
Eleanor meets widower Peter and his daughter, Martina, and a new and more contented life beckons. But soon the trouble starts and the Cold War reaches right into their home: threats creep from both sides, and when Peter is dispatched for two years of solidarity work in Laos, Jess no longer knows if the people she calls 'comrade' are quite who they seem.
Philipps said: “Jo McMillan's sense of character and place is rich and memorable, but above all what drew me to this novel was the marvellous humour behind what at times is a painful story; it fizzes with memorable lines which left me feeling entertained and moved as well as reminded of an extraordinary time.”
Motherland will be published in July 2015.