Picador has acquired Ponti by Sharlene Teo, winner of the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writers’ Award for an unpublished writer, after a seven-way auction.
Ponti was praised by Ian McEwan, who awarded the prize in May, as "remarkable", while the judges called it "a breath of fictional fresh air".
Sophie Jonathan acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Emma Paterson at RCW. Picador will publish Ponti in 2018.
During the Frankfurt Book Fair, North American rights were pre-empted by Ira Silverberg at Simon & Schuster while French rights sold at auction to Buchet Castel, and the novel was pre-empted in Holland by De Bezige Bij. Since the fair, German rights have sold at auction to Aufbau, and Brazilian rights have sold to Intrinseca.
Ponti opens in 2003 and introduces three women: 16-year-old Szu, her mother, a once beautiful actress named Amisa, and Circe, Szu’s unlikely friend and confidant. Moving the story 17 years on, in 2020, Circe is struggling through a divorce in Singapore when a project comes up at work: a remake of the cult seventies horror film series 'Ponti', the very project that defined Amisa's short-lived film career. Suddenly Circe is knocked off balance by memories of the two women she once knew, by guilt, and by a past that is threatening her conscience.
Sophie Jonathan, senior editor at Picador, said: "From the moment I began Ponti it had me enthralled. Sharlene is so good on the convolutions of teenage loyalty, on the emotional complexity of being an almost-adult, and that tension is in the novel’s atmosphere too – sticky, sweaty, dank – the smog of Singapore and the heavy heated press of classrooms. This is a vibrant, modern novel and yet Malaysia’s past is here too. The voice of Ponti is sharp, simultaneously viciously funny and poignant, and the world Sharlene builds is utterly enveloping. I’m delighted that Picador will be the publisher to get this book into the hand of readers everywhere, and I can’t wait to work with Sharlene."
Singaporean writer Teo is based in the UK where she is currently enrolled at the University of East Anglia in the second year of a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing. In 2012 she was awarded the Booker Prize Foundation Scholarship to undertake an MA in Prose Fiction at UEA, and she is also the recipient of the 2013 David T K Wong Creative Writing Fellowship and the 2014 Sozopol Fiction Fellowship. Ponti is her first novel.