Weidenfeld & Nicolson has acquired Moth by debut author Melody Razak, a "dark and sweeping" story of pre-partition India, in a three-way auction.
Federico Andornino, editorial director at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, bought UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) in a deal struck by Caroline Wood at Felicity Bryan Associates.
Moth is described as the "heart-rending" story of a Brahmin family living in 1940s Delhi during India’s independence and subsequent partition.
While exploring the disproportionate violence on the lives of women in times of political unrest, W&N said the book also boasts "spellbinding, page-turning appeal" from Razak's "finely-tuned writing" and a "wonderful cast of characters".
Among the characters of the book are: "Alma and her obsession with getting married; Roop and her passion for death; their strict grandmother, hell-bent on preserving the family honour; their parents, who have fought for decades to see India finally independent; their widowed cook; and their Muslim nanny".
Andornino said: "Throughout the course of the novel – as history threatens to destroy this family we have learned to love – we hold on to these people as if they were our own: that’s the power of Melody’s storytelling. I am excited and honoured to be working with her to introduce readers to her unique and unforgettable creation."
Razak, who currently works at Honey & Co as a pastry chef, has an MA in creative writing at Birkbeck. She said: "A few years ago, I listened to a series of interviews on Radio 4 that had been commissioned to mark the 70th anniversary of partition. The voices of the last living survivors spoke with pain, loss and displacement, but also with an edge of resilience. The stories of each individual journey, emotional or geographical, wove a narrative that is as essential to our understanding of the world then, as it is to our understanding of the now.
"I wanted to probe into what it means to lose, to love and to break, to delve into the secrets of one family and explore the dark heart in each of them. I have travelled extensively through India for most of my adult life and my continuing love affair with the country, with all its grime and beauty on effervescent display, has meant that I will always seek out its stories. Meeting Federico from W&N, discussing the intricacies of each character and sharing an understanding of how the story moves forwards and why it was so important that I write it, was a moment of total joy."
Moth will be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in spring 2021 in hardback, export trade paperback, e-book and audio. A mass market paperback will follow in 2022.