Weidenfeld & Nicolson has triumphed in an auction for the second novel by American author Maria Semple, staking a six-figure sum for the title.
Editorial director Arzu Tahsin bought UK and Commonwealth rights to Where'd You Go, Bernadette? from Andrew Kidd at Aitken Alexander Associates at the auction, with 13 publishers expressing interest initially, eight publishers opening the bidding, and half of those still in at the final round.
The book is slated for publication in June 2012, and will be published by Little, Brown in the US. The novel has also been sold in numerous European territories, and is the "biggest-selling project" to originate from the New York offices of Aitken Alexander, which only opened two years ago and is headed by senior agent Anna Stein.
The novel is set in Seattle, and is billed as a "warm and heartfelt but also very, very funny" story of a family, narrated by 15-year-old Bee, who is trying to unravel the mystery of her mother's disappearance.
The book uses emails, notes and magazine articles, incorporating them as clues used by Bee in her search. The publisher described it as "a fantastic entanglement of ideas, humour and emotional charge".
Tahsin said: "Maria's book went round the building like a virus and everyone fell in love with it. This is a funny, enchanting and addictively readable story and will be an instant, word-of-mouth bestseller." On the sum paid, Tahsin added: "It wasn't a small amount of money but it was worth it."
Semple's début novel, This One is Mine, was published by Little, Brown in the UK in 2009. Semple lives in Los Angeles, where she worked as a television writer for 15 years on comedy shows such as "Ellen", "Saturday Night Live", "Mad About You" and "Arrested Development".