Weidenfeld & Nicolson has pre-empted a “dazzling multi-generational” novel from an Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate which was the subject of a nine-publisher auction in the US.
Lettice Franklin, commissioning editor at the Orion division, bought UK and Commonwealth rights excluding Canada for The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo in a one-book deal struck by Claire Roberts on behalf of Ellen Levine and Alexa Stark at Trident. The title will be published next summer in hardback, export trade paperback, e-book and audio.
The deal follows a “hotly-contested” nine-publisher auction in the US which saw Lee Boudreaux, v-p and executive editor at Doubleday, win North American rights.
Billed as “a dazzling multi-generational novel” for fans of Meg Wolitzer or Anne Tyler, the novel focuses on the Sorenson family. When Marilyn and David fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that's to come, the blurb reads. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are matching wits, harbouring grudges and recklessly igniting old rivalries. When a teenage boy, given up for adoption 15 years before, reappears, long-buried secrets threaten to shatter the lives they've built and reveal the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorenson’s past.
The book has already won praise from The Song of Achilles author Madeline Miller who described it as “a gripping and poignant ode to a messy, loving family in all its glory”.
Franklin praised the “very believable characters and focus on complex, compelling family dynamics”.
“I was immediately and totally engrossed by the lives of the Sorensons and by Claire’s exceptionally confident storytelling,” Franklin said. “She writes so brilliantly about families – about what it is like to grow up one of four sisters, about being the product of an unusually happy marriage, about how we can simultaneously love and loathe our partners, children, siblings and parents.”
Lombardo graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in America in 2017, where she won an Iowa Arts Fellowship and a Sun Valley Writers' Conference Fellowship. She is currently an adjunct professor of creative writing at the University of Iowa, and also teaches fiction writing at the Iowa Young Writers' Studio. The Illinois-born author now lives in Iowa City, where she is at work on a second novel.
Lombardo said: “At its heart, The Most Fun We Ever Had is an exploration of the intense and unending, if sometimes fraught, affection we feel for those most important to us. I left a graduate programme in social work in order to finish writing this novel, so in many ways it's a dimestore continuation of my studies: I have always been fascinated by people, and by familial dynamics… and I wanted to create a fly-on-the-wall sensation for readers, giving them the ability to sit back and watch a single family evolve over half a century.”