Bonnier Books UK has acquired Freya Sampson's debut novel The Last Library—an "ode to libraries and the ability they possess to bring the unlikeliest of people together".
After winning the book in a "passionately fought" auction, Zaffre will publish as a lead in Autumn 2021 in hardback, e-book and audio. UK and Commonwealth rights were acquired by Sarah Bauer, senior editor, from Hayley Steed at Madeleine Milburn in a two-book deal.
Steed simultaneously ran a "heated" US auction, and North American rights were won by Kerry Donovan at PRH/Berkley in a "major" six-figure deal, who will publish simultaneously. Rights have also been sold in Arabic to Dar Altanweer, German to DuMont, Hebrew to Tchelet, Hungarian to General Press and Italian to Mondadori, with offers in Greece and the Czech Republic.
The Last Library is the story of shy, reclusive June Jones, who is forced to emerge from behind the shelves to save her beloved library from closure, with the help of her unconventional yet dedicated patrons.
Zaffre called it "an ode to libraries and the ability they possess to bring the unlikeliest of people together" but also a story "about how the right person, at the right time, can make a huge difference".
The author spent 15 years working in TV, and was the creator and executive producer of Channel 4’s "Four in a Bed" and "Gogglesprogs". She also is a graduate of the Faber Academy. She came up with the idea for The Last Library five years ago when she had her first child; finding early motherhood challenging, the very first outing she made with her baby daughter was a trip to her local library, and it became "a lifeline" in the first year of her daughter’s life and again when her son was born two years later. According to Zaffre, during the hours spent reading picture books and singing nursery rhymes, she realised how vital the library service was and the idea for the novel was born.
Sampson said: "I’m absolutely delighted that The Last Library has found such an amazing home at Bonnier. I was blown away by Sarah and the team’s passion for the book, and I’m so excited to work with them and everyone at Berkley to bring June and Chalcot Library to readers."
Steed of Madeleine Milburn Agency said: "From the second I stepped into Chalcot and June’s library, I fell in love with Freya’s voice and her cast of characters, but most of all, I loved how it sparked a nostalgia in every reader, and reminded us that libraries are home to more than just books for those who really need it. I can’t wait to see Bonnier, Berkley, and all of the global publishers launch this joyous debut into the world next autumn."
Bauer said: "For me, The Last Library is about breaking out of your comfort zone, standing up for what you believe in and striving to fulfill your ambitions. In a world that can feel unkind and isolating this novel is a timely reminder of the power of people from all walks of life working together for the good of the community. I am delighted to be publishing this beautiful novel which not only has such a great message but is also filled with a cast of brilliant characters that you can't help but fall in love with. I know Freya has a bright publishing career ahead of her and I am so pleased to be a part of it."
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