Virago has pre-empted an "extraordinary" story of Jewish women resistance fighters that has already been preemptively optioned for film by Steven Spielberg's agency for DreamWorks Pictures.
Lennie Goodings, Virago chair, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Anna Carmichael at Abner Stein on behalf of Alia Hanna Habib at The Gernert Company in New York. The book will be published in the UK - and in North America by William Morrow - in 2020.
Spielberg's Amblin Partners preemptively optioned film rights for DreamWorks Pictures with the book's author, Judy Batalion, attached as a co-producer.
Entitled Daughters of the Resistance: Valor, Fury & the Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos, Batalion's tale began with the discovery in the British Library of an account in Yiddish of dozens of young Jewish women who fought against the Nazis.
Batalion is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and had grown up with stories about the war but had never heard this tale of women in the resistance movement. The women paid off Gestapo guards, hid revolvers in loaves of bread, helped build systems of underground bunkers, seduced officers with wine, whiskey and home cooking, then shot and killed them. They bombed German train lines and blew up water supplies.
Pitched as "an unforgettable story about feminism, female friendship and revolt", her book follows a group of fighters in 1943 as they prepare for insurgence with, at its center, Renieh Kukelkohn, a smuggler and messenger from a small city in Poland.
Goodings said this was a story that "deserves to be championed".
"One of our aims from the start was to bring hidden histories to light and Judy Batalion’s astonishing discovery does that very thing: it lifts a veil on a previously unknown story. And what a story! It is heroic and dangerous and so very moving," she said. "This is a book that changes history, thrills readers and gives new respect to an aspect of the war – and particularly the women’s war – that we know so little about and one that deserves to be championed."