William Collins is to publish Girl With Dove: A Child’s Escape Through Reading, a memoir from Oxford lecturer Sally Bayley.
Publishing director Arabella Pike bought World rights from Jemima Hunt.
Bayley spent some of her teenage years in foster care and was the first child from the West Sussex Care system to reach university.
In Girl With Dove, Bayley recounts how she escaped her disturbing upbringing by disappearing into a world of books and reading. Girl With Dove is a "striking literary memoir of survival". Through reading, Bayley befriends literary heroes from Victorian literature: Jane Eyre and characters from David Copperfield become her saviours, offering her humour and guidance during difficult moments in her life.
The book combines the voices of literary characters with those of her real-life counterparts, with Girl With Dove said to read as a magical series of strange encounters. Weaving literary classics with a young girl’s coming of age story, this is a book said to testiy to the transformative power of reading and the literary imagination.
Pike said: "This very special book marks the launch of an incredibly exciting new literary voice. On one level, it is an account of how books rescued Sally from the neglect of her childhood...but her book is about so much more than her personal story. It demonstrates the power of great literature and of imagination to build a life, no matter how unhappy the circumstances. It will appeal to anyone who loved Oranges are Not the Only Fruit (Vintage), or The Trouble With Goats and Sheep (Borough Press)."
Bayley said: "As a child I needed a way out of the world I found myself in. I wanted to create a new family, so I went looking for one in the books I read. Jane Eyre and Miss Marple and later Betsey Trotwood from David Copperfield became my literary family; but they were also my hired detectives whose job it was to find out what on earth was going on in the strange adult world around me."
Bayley is now a teaching and research fellow at the Rothermere American institute at the University of Oxford. From September 2018, she will be teaching writing in Oxford as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. She is author of The Private Life of the Diary (Unbound) as well as books on Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson.
William Collins will publish in June.