Virago has acquired a new book from Sonia Purnell, telling the "explosive" story of Pamela Harriman, Winston and Clementine Churchill’s beloved daughter-in-law, and "secret weapon" during Second World War.
Sarah Savitt, publisher at Virago, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in The Ambassador: The Astonishing Life of Pamela Churchill Harriman, Courtesan, Kingmaker and Survivor from Grainne Fox at Fletcher & Company. North American rights have sold to Emily Wunderlich at Viking.
Purnell is most recently the author of A Woman of No Importance, about Second World War spy Virginia Hall, that Virago published in March 2019 and in paperback in April 2020, selling 45,000 copies across all formats. The audio edition was read by Juliet Stevenson and it has been optioned for film. Her first book, Just Boris: A Tale of Blond Ambition, was meanwhile longlisted for the Orwell Prize.
Harriman, the subject of Purnell's new book, "rose to circles of power in the UK and in the US, playing a pivotal role in many of the most dramatic moments of 20th century history", according to Virago. It said further, "her work as an ambassador and life as a major power broker have long been misunderstood and underestimated".
Savitt said: "Sonia has an impeccable instinct for choosing complicated subjects whose impact on history is, good or bad, certainly profound, from Boris Johnson to Clementine Churchill and Virginia Hall to now, Pamela Harriman. Through telling, for the first time, the full story of Harriman’s life, Sonia will also explore female power, the history of post-war Anglo-American relations, and much more, with a huge dose of intrigue and glamour along the way."
Purnell said: "I'm thrilled to be working again with the great Virago team on my new book. Pamela has got me totally gripped, just as during her lifetime she enthralled her fans from Bill Clinton via Winston Churchill to Truman Capote (while equally enraging her enemies). Her astonishing life encompassed glitz, glamour and plenty of sex as well as seismic political drama, intrigue, betrayal and heartache."