Michael Joseph has acquired Elizabeth Knox’s The Absolute Book—an "epic, genre-bending" novel that sold out four print runs in the author’s native New Zealand.
Snapping up UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, from Scott Miller at Trident Media Group, acquiring editorial director Jillian Taylor said she had been blown away by the book's "rich canvas", which she said gave her the same thrill as when she first read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods or Susanna Clark’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
"Elizabeth has the rare ability to move between genres, mixing references and homages whilst creating characters who have as much to say about our world as their own," said Taylor. "Weaving together a tale of two sisters, an ancient bloodline, a library hiding an astonishing secret, Odin's ravens, a murder and its revenge is no small feat, and readers have the most electrifying experience in store for them. I’ve waited a lifetime to publish a book as imaginative as this, and I could not be more delighted to welcome Elizabeth to Penguin Michael Joseph."
The Absolute Book opens with the death of the protagonist's sister. "Grieving and angry, [Taryn Cornick] makes a deal with a man called The Muleskinner to exact justice," reads the synopsis, "setting in motion a string of consequences she could never have predicted, taking her from Norfolk to Fairyland via Purgatory and New Zealand. At the heart of it is a book, one that has been kept secret for centuries, last seen in Taryn’s family’s ancestral library: The Absolute Book."
Knox, who is also the author of Women’s Prize-longlisted novel The Vintner’s Luck, said she had wanted to write "a novel that would transport its readers". "What I love is to be fixed by a reader’s scolding, excited eye and be told, ‘Your book kept me up well past my bedtime’," she said.
It will be published in hardback, e-book, and audio simultaneously in the UK, US, and Canada in February 2021.