One of the most talked about pre-book fair books, debut novel The Well by Catherine Chanter has been bought for a substantial pre-empt by Editorial Director, Louisa Joyner and Jamie Byng at Canongate and Michael Heyward at Text.
The deal was made by primary agent Nelle Andrew at PFD for UK and Commonwealth rights excluding Canada after a flurry of international pre-empts handled by International Rights Director Rachel Mills.
Canongate will be the lead publisher in Louisa Joyner’s first acquisition there, co-publishing with Text in Australia, following significant pre-empts from Fischer in Germany, Ambo Anthos in The Netherlands, Bromberg in Sweden as well as Atria/Simon and Schuster in North America. Rights have also subsequently been sold at pre-empt in Norway.
Catherine Chanter was the winner of this year’s Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize before being signed by Nelle Andrew. Her novel tells the story of a modern day Britain where it has not rained for three years except on a piece of farmland known as The Well. A high concept literary tour de force wrapped up in a thrilling who-dunnit, it follows the story of Ruth, the owner of the land and her husband Mark as they deal with the blessing and curse of rain in the face of a nationwide drought and the devastating effect it has on their marriage, their home and the very lives of their family as they are thrown into peril.
Louisa Joyner said: “I keep having to pinch myself to believe that we really have acquired The Well by the remarkably talented Catherine Chanter. The Well is a novel of enormous power. It combines the unputdownable pace of Before I go to Sleep with the emotional pull of The Outcast and the literary quality of early Atwood, and for it to be my first acquisition at Canongate makes it all the more exciting.’
Michael Heyward of Text Publishing said:“I read The Well in a kind of trance, desperate to race ahead, but wanting to savour its sentences at the same time. Gorgeously written and fiendishly constructed, this seductive and creepy novel with its backdrop of weird weather and its cast of lost souls is about what happens when escape into rural bliss becomes a nightmare. With her eye for the unexpected word and for the phrase that tightens the screw, Catherine Chanter has written an astonishing novel, and I suspect that reading it is going to become something of a cultish activity.”
Daniel Loedel, the acquiring editor for S&S in the US also stated that: “The Well is a remarkably assured and original first novel, at once a haunting page-turner and a deeply-felt exploration of the mysterious connection between people and the places they call home.”
There has been immense international interest in the novel since its submission with requests from foreign publishers all over the world. All international rights will be handled by Rachel Mills at PFD and Alexandra Cliff and this will be a key fiction title for PFD ahead of the Book Fair.