Weidenfeld & Nicolson is to publish Meg Mason's novel Sorrow and Bliss, after triumphing in a hotly contested five-way auction.
Federico Andornino, editorial director, acquired UK & Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and the deal was struck with Libby O’Donnell at HarperCollins Australia. North American rights were acquired by Emily Griffin at Harper and foreign rights were sold in 14 other territories.
The synopsis explains: "Everyone tells Martha Friel she is clever and beautiful, a brilliant writer who has been loved every day of her adult life by one man, her husband Patrick. A gift, her mother once said, not everybody gets. So why is everything broken? Why is Martha – on the edge of 40 – friendless, practically jobless and so often sad? And why did Patrick decide to leave?
"Maybe she is just too sensitive, someone who finds it harder to be alive than most people. Or maybe – as she has long believed – there is something wrong with her. Something that broke when a little bomb went off in her brain, at 17, and left her changed in a way that no doctor or therapist has ever been able to explain.
"Forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, bohemian parents (but without the help of her devoted, foul-mouthed sister Ingrid), Martha has one last chance to find out whether a life is ever too broken to fix – or whether, maybe, by starting over, she will get to write a better ending for herself."
Mason began her journalism career at the Financial Times and the Times. Her work has since appeared in Vogue, Grazia, the Sunday Times, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sunday Telegraph. She has written humour for the New Yorker, been a monthly columnist for GQ, a regular contributor to Vogue and Marie Claire, and a contributing editor at Elle.
Commenting on the acquisition, she said: "When somebody asked F Scott Fitzgerald how long he took for The Great Gatsby, he said. ‘To write it, it took three months; to conceive it three minutes; to collect the data in it: all my life.’
"It isn’t my first novel, but Sorrow and Bliss is the one I’ve been collecting for all my life. Everything I know and have learned, everything I’ve felt or have ever feared or found funny or desperately true, all the lines from books and snippets of conversation that I’ve preciously kept, I put in, because it’s a story – about a marriage, mental illness, sisters, stubborn, persistent love and starting again – that I’ve always wanted to tell.
"I just had to be 40 to know how to do it. That it has found publishers all over the world is quite unbelievable. That it will reach readers in the UK, through Weidenfeld & Nicolson, an extraordinary house, and through Federico Andornino, the most passionate publisher, is a chance for which I’m endlessly grateful."
Andornino added: "I am incredibly jealous of the many readers who haven’t encountered Martha, Patrick and the rest of the Sorrow and Bliss cast yet – I wish I could relive the pleasure of meeting them for the first time over and over again. It’s a testament to Meg’s genius that I spent the week of the auction fielding emails from colleagues desperate for us to publish her book. Darkly, laugh-out-loud funny, devastatingly sad and yet never without hope, Sorrow and Bliss is – quite simply – a triumph."
Sorrow and Bliss will be published by W&N in e-book on 10th December 2020, in export trade paperback and audio digital download on 9th February 2021, and in hardback on 10th June 2021, as a lead handsell title across the Orion Publishing Group.