Viking triumphs in five-way auction for Winn's debut novel on First World War

Viking triumphs in five-way auction for Winn's debut novel on First World War

Viking has triumphed in a five-way auction for screenwriter Alice Winn’s debut novel In Memoriam, "an epic tale of both the tragedies of the First World War and a forbidden love that blooms in its grip".

Commissioning editor Isabel Wall acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Sophie Lambert at C&W, on behalf of Anna Stein at ICM. Diana Miller at Knopf acquired US rights, again in a major five-way auction. The book will be published by Viking in hardback, e-book and audio in spring 2023.

The publisher said: "It’s 1914, and the First World War is ceaselessly churning through thousands of young men on both sides of the fight. The violence of the front feels far away to Henry Gaunt, Sidney Ellwood and the rest of their classmates, all of whom are safely ensconced in their idyllic boarding school in the English countryside. Gaunt, half-German, is busy fighting his own private battle – an all-consuming infatuation with his best friend, the dreamy, poetic Ellwood — not having a clue that Ellwood is in love with him. When Gaunt’s German mother and twin sister ask him to enlist as an officer in the British army to protect the family from the anti-German attacks they’re already facing, Gaunt signs up immediately, relieved to escape his overwhelming feelings for Ellwood.

"The front is horrific, of course, and though Gaunt tries to dissuade Ellwood from joining him on the battlefield, Ellwood soon rushes to join him, fuelled by his education in Greek heroics and romantic wartime poetry. Before long, most of their classmates have followed suit. Once in the trenches, the boys become intimately acquainted with the harsh realities of war. Ellwood and Gaunt find fleeting moments of solace in one other, but their friends are all dying, often in front of them, and no one knows when they’ll be next."

Wall said: "In Memoriam is a miraculous novel – at once an ambitious, epic account of the horrors of the First World War and an intimate, intensely moving tale of two men in love. It is extraordinarily gripping and heartbreaking. Alice is a rare talent and I am immensely proud to be publishing her at Viking."

Winn, who lives in Brooklyn, where she writes screenplays with her Oscar-nominated screenwriting partner Melisa Wallack, added: "I couldn’t be happier to have found Isabel, and I’m so looking forward to working with the Viking team."