Transworld pre-empts retelling of Pride & Prejudice

Transworld has acquired a novel which gives a new perspective to the story of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, pre-empting Longbourn by Jo Baker within 24 hours of submission.

Publishing director Marianne Velmans bought British and Commonwealth rights in the novel from Clare Alexander at Aitken Alexander Associates, which retells Austen's classic from the point of view of the servants.

The book will be published by Doubleday in hardback and e-book in August 2013, with the paperback to follow from Black Swan in 2014. Editorial director Jane Lawson will edit the book in the UK. US rights have also been bought by Knopf, where Diana Coglianese will be the editor, signing the rights via Anna Stein of Aitken Alexander in New York.

Velmans said: "Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ point of view was an irresistible pitch. Then I raced through the whole novel in one sitting, as Jo Baker has taken the idea and written a beautiful, stylish, moving and totally compelling novel which, while following Austen’s timeline, presents a completely original love story against the harsh backdrop of working people’s lives in Regency England."

Baker said: "Jane Austen was my first experience of grown-up literature. But as I read and re-read her books, I began to become aware that if I'd been living at the time, I wouldn't have gone to the ball; I would have been stuck at home with the sewing. Just a few generations back, my family were in service. Aware of that English class thing, Pride and Prejudice begins to read a little differently."

Film rights have been bought via Lesley Thorne at Aitken Alexander by Random Studio and Focus Features, and translations rights have been sold in Spain, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Brazil, France and Sweden.

Longbourn is Baker's fifth novel.