Sceptre has acquired The Stars Are Not Yet Bells, Hannah Lillith Assadi's "darkly romantic and beautifully immersive" second novel.
Francine Toon, commissioning editor, acquired British Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) from Rebecca Carter at Janklow & Nesbit UK on behalf of P J Mark, to be published in February 2022. Cal Morgan at Riverhead Books acquired North American rights.
The synopsis reads: "It is the end of the Great Depression and Elle Ranier believes that by marrying her wealthy husband Simon she is saving her life. Young and impressionable, she is unable to foresee the true cost of her decision. Instead, she leaves everything she has known in New York City to live in a vine-covered mansion on the tangled shores of Lyra, an island off America’s south-eastern coast. There, amid the wild horses, oak woods and rumours of jewels hidden beneath the water, Elle harbours a secret. Her so-called ‘cousin’ Gabriel, who comes to stay, is really a boyfriend from back home and the love of her life.
"In subsequent years, when Elle and Simon raise a family and face a less than idyllic relationship, Elle can never forget her brief dalliance with Gabriel. Even 50 years later, when her memory recedes into the mists of Alzheimer's disease, she is haunted by his fate. With her mind a maze of questions about long-buried stories, the bewitching island of Lyra might eventually bring answers to light."
Toon said: "I am delighted to introduce UK readers to Hannah Lillith Assadi’s remarkable voice in the form of this profoundly moving love story. I first fell for Hannah Lillith Assadi’s unique, lyrical style when I stumbled across her debut novel Sonora while browsing in The Strand bookshop in New York. Reading The Stars Are Not Yet Bells I was reminded of the haunting atmosphere of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca mixed with the hazy swampland of the American south and the drama of the Second World War."
Assadi commented: "I am absolutely thrilled to join Sceptre’s list. The Stars Are Not Yet Bells is a novel deeply informed by gothic literature from both sides of the pond, and it is such a joy to me that it will have an audience in the United Kingdom."
Assadi teaches fiction at the Columbia University School of the Arts. Her first novel, Sonora, was published by Soho Press in 2017 and received the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and was a finalist for the PEN/ Robert W Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. In 2018, she was named a National Book Foundation "five under 35" honouree.