Jonathan Cape has bought Jeet Thayil’s new novel Names of the Women – a retelling of the New Testament from the points of view of the women whose roles have been suppressed, reduced or erased from the gospels.
Michal Shavit, publishing director, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, including India, from David Godwin at the David Godwin Literary Agency. The novel will be published just before Easter 2021.
According to Cape, the novel is the story of Christ as seen by the women who played minor parts in the New Testament.
The novel begins with Christ on the cross addressing Mary Magdalene and, over the course of 24 chapters, tells the stories of Mary, Herodias, Salomé, Martha of Bethany, Mary of Bethany, Joanna, Assia and Lydia, among other figures, both fictional and historical, and it ends with the voice of Mary, mother of Christ.
Shavit said: "Jeet Thayil’s new book is an extraordinary reimagining of the New Testament. It’s a brave book, a feminist book in many ways, and a beautiful ode to the unsung heroes of the Bible. It shows the true power of fiction in creating worlds not from lived experience but from the incredible powers of the human imagination."
Thayil is the author of Low and Narcopolis (both Faber).