Quercus has bought a historical novel about Huguenot master silk weavers in 18th century Spitalfields, by a former lawyer inspired by exhibits in London's Victoria and Albert Museum.
Jane Wood, publisher at Quercus, acquired the UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) to debut historical novel Blackberry and Wild Rose, by Sonia Velton, from Juliet Mushens at Caskie Mushens. Quercus will publish in hardback as a lead title in spring 2019.
North American rights were acquired by Blackstone from Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency on behalf of Juliet Mushens at Caskie Mushens, and German rights have been snapped up by Goldmann.
The novel is about a household of Huguenot master silk weavers living in 18th century Spitalfields. It focuses on the tumultuous relationship between Esther Thorel, the mistress of the household, and her lady’s maid, Sara Kemp, set against the backdrop of the silk weaving rebellions of the time.
Blackberry and Wild Rose is “loosely inspired” by 18th century silk designer Anna Maria Garthwaite and the title comes from the name of one of her designs, which she recorded in ledgers along with the name of the mercer she sold them to.
Velton is a former city lawyer, specialising in discrimination law. She wrote the novel whilst on a career break having her three children. She has been shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and longlisted for the Myslexia Novel Competition.
She said: “From the moment I first saw the exquisite Spitalfields silks in the V&A Museum, I knew that the story of the 18th century Huguenot silk weavers had to be told. I am beyond delighted by the enthusiasm and excitement that Jane Wood and the Quercus team have shown for Blackberry and Wild Rose. It’s a privilege to be working with them.”
Wood described reading the book as “love at first sight”. She said: "I have always been fascinated by the history of Spitalfields, silk weaving and the Huguenots and Sonia Velton brings their world vividly to life. The fact that the main character is based on a woman whose sumptuous work can be seen to this day at the V&A was the icing on the cake.”
She added: “All of us at Quercus are thrilled to be publishing Sonia's richly imagined, beautiful debut.”