Gappah’s new novel goes to Scribner after eight-way auction

Petina Gappah

Eric Simonoff at WME has closed an eight-bidder auction in the US with Kathy Belden at Scribner for celebrated Zimbabwean author Petina Gappah’s “breathtaking” new novel Out Of Darkness, Shining Light.

In a “significant” deal, Lee Brackstone at Faber & Faber acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Raffaella De Angelis.

Out of Darkness, Shining Light is planned for publication in the UK in March 2019.

On the international front, WME has closed foreign rights deals in Italy with Mauri Spagnol, France with Lattes, and Norway with Gyldendal Norsk. They have offers in from Spain and Holland, with passionate interest throughout Europe and South America.

Set in Africa in 1873, the novel recounts the death of explorer Dr David Livingstone after his failed attempt to find the source of the Nile. It imagines the journey taken by Livingstone’s faithful servants as they carry his corpse across Africa for nine months. The funeral caravan seeks the port of Zanzibar so his remains can be returned to Britain for burial, but their journey is fraught with incident and betrayal, peril and death.

Out of Darkness, Shining Light is a novel about slavery, loyalty, organised religion, and superstitious belief, set just before the Europeans brutally carved up the continent. |More than a century later, their story feels romantic, improbable, and ultimately misguided; it has the epic power of myth, yet feels utterly contemporary”, said the publisher.

Brackstone said: “Petina Gappah’s new novel dramatises a crucial moment in the often tragic story of the African continent in the late nineteenth-century. Livingstone’s story comes to life in a novel which is the finest kind of historical fiction. This is both a glorious page-turner and a literary novel of the highest calibre.”

Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University and the University of Zimbabwe. Her short fiction and essays have been published in over eight countries. Her debut story collection, An Elegy for Easterly,won the 2009 Guardian First Book Award. Her first novel, The Book of Memory, was longlisted for the 2015 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. – The Book Seller