In a two-book deal, Pan Macmillan has signed Lola Jaye's first historical novel, The Attic Child, inspired by a true story she discovered at a National Portrait Gallery exhibition.
Publishing director Gillian Green acquired world rights from Judith Murdoch at the Judith Murdoch Literary Agency.
The Attic Child is a “heartfelt historical novel about two children locked in the same attic almost a century apart, told through the lens of black British history”. Jaye came across the story at the 2016 Black Chronicles Photographic Portraits 1862-1948 exhibition when she saw photos of a young African boy.
Publishing in autumn 2021, its synopsis explains: “The novel is set in dual time periods—in the early 1900s a young boy is taken from his home in the Congo and brought to England by a rich explorer who renames him Celestine, and ‘educates’ him to become his companion. But when his guardian dies, Celestine finds himself ‘acquired’ along with the house and banished to the servant’s quarters. Later, in the mid-1990s, a young girl, born into privilege, is exiled to the attic room and discovers she is not the first child to be imprisoned there.”
Green said: “Having been lucky enough to work with Lola before on her genre fiction, I know what a gifted storyteller she is. The Attic Child is a bold change of direction for her. This is a hauntingly powerful and emotionally charged dual narrative historical novel about family secrets, love and loss, identity and belonging from an author at the top of her game. We’re all delighted to be welcoming Lola to Pan Macmillan.”
Jaye said: “This is a story I had to write. There was always a feeling that 'Celestine' was interrupting, asking when his story was going to be told. Now I get to do that and I couldn't be more honoured.”
Jaye is a registered psychotherapist and has written for the Huffington Post, CNN, Essence and the BBC. She is a member of the Black Writers’ Guild and author of five previous genre novels, including 2018's Wartime Sweethearts and 2017 title Orphan Sisters (both Ebury Press).