Weidenfeld & Nicolson has won a debut American novel at auction, about a young couple on their honeymoon in 1957, pitched as reminiscent of Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach.
W&N commissioning editor Federico Andornino acquired UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) in Cape May by Chip Cheek from Celadon, an imprint of Macmillan US, to publish in hardback, e-book and audio in early 2019.
This is the first deal for Celadon, which was launched by publishers Jamie Raab and Deb Futter earlier this year. Deb Futter acquired world English language rights from Katherine Fausset at Curtis Brown US in a "major" pre-empt; German rights were sold to Blessing, French rights to Stock, and Italian rights to Einaudi, all at auction.
The novel centres on Henry and Effie, newlyweds from Georgia, as they arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon, with the plot following them as they "slip from innocence into betrayal" after meeting a glamorous set of people who eventually upend their marriage.
Characters include "Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister, to whom Henry is irresistibly drawn". And the book is set in an empty town that fast becomes their playground, as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink massive amounts of gin - with consequences that reverberate through the rest of their lives.
Andornino said it was one of the best debuts he'd read in years. "Actually, it’s so accomplished I couldn’t quite believe it was a first novel," he said. "From the very beginning everyone in the team was completely transfixed by the depth of Chip’s writing and by the emotional truth at the heart of the novel. Cape May will have readers torn between the need to devour it in one sitting and the desire to savour every single beautifully crafted word."