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Europa Editions UK has secured Karen Powell's "extraordinary" novel at auction.

Director Christopher Potter has acquired rights for two titles from Samuel Hodder at Blake Friedmann following a two-publisher auction. As well as UK and Commonwealth, Potter bought rights for United States and Italy “such was the strength of our feelings and commitment”. Europa will publish the first novel, THE RIVER WITHIN, in 2020.

“I was bowled over by the poetic intensity of this extraordinary novel,” Potter said. THE RIVER WITHIN is as evocative of place and landscape as any novel I can think of. I believe THE RIVER WITHIN will immediately find its place as a classic in a tradition that includes the novels of Thomas Hardy and Graham Swift.”

Powell said: “I am delighted to be working with an editor of Christopher’s calibre and with Europa Editions – they’re passionate champions of European literary fiction and the quality of their list is ridiculously good.”

For both titles, audio rights for the UK and British Commonwealth (excluding Canada) were sold to WF Howes.

THE RIVER WITHIN is a piercing and evocative novel set in 1950s Yorkshire. On a summer’s day in the village of Starome, the body of young Danny Masters emerges from the river. It’s found by Danny’s three teenage friends: Alexander, the volatile heir to Richmond Hall, the country estate that neighbours Starome, and sister and brother, Lennie and Tom, whose father is secretary to the Richmond family. The friends’ responses to Danny’s death are strange. Why does Alexander seem oddly stimulated, excited even, and why is Lennie so keen for everyone to move on? How did Danny die? Did he fall in, or jump? Or worse?  In an interweaving narrative that moves across the months before and after Danny’s death, the secrets of the village begin to surface.

Powell left school at 16, but returned to education as a mature student to study English Literature at Cambridge University. She lives in Yorkshire, and an early draft of THE RIVER WITHIN was awarded a Northern Writers’ TLC ‘New Fiction Reads’ prize, which seeks to support work-in-progress by new, emerging and established writers across the North of England. She subsequently attended the ‘New Writing North’ Summer Talent Salon in 2018, where she secured agent representation from Hodder.  


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SWIMMING IN THE DARK, the tender and passionate debut by Tomasz Jedrowski, caused excitement on both sides of the Atlantic in the lead-up to London Book Fair. Set against the decline of communism in Poland in the 1980s, the novel tells a story of first love between two men as they seek moral integrity under a repressive system.

The manuscript garnered much praise from editors in the UK, leading to a hotly-contested six-publisher auction. Alexa von Hirschberg, senior commissioning editor at Bloomsbury secured UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) from Samuel Hodder. She praised the “seductive and heartbreaking novel, which as well as being a passionate coming-of-age story, also raises profound moral questions”.

Tomasz said: "I could not be more thrilled to be working with Bloomsbury. Their authors have inspired and sustained me throughout my creative journey and it's incredible that SWIMMING IN THE DARK will be published alongside writers who have helped to bring it to life. Many thanks to my agent Samuel Hodder at Blake Friedmann and to Alexa von Hirschberg at Bloomsbury for setting Ludwig's and Janusz's story free in such a gracious and loving way." 

Jessica Williams, senior editor at William Morrow, snapped up North American rights as part of an impressive six-figure pre-emptive deal. She told The Bookseller it was a “breath-taking debut”.

“I started SWIMMING IN THE DARK on a cold Saturday afternoon in New York, and immediately disappeared into its sensuous language and the lives of its characters,” she said. “I fell so utterly in love with Tomasz’s storytelling that I finished the book in one sitting, immediately sent a note to my publisher, and offered a pre-empt first thing Monday morning.”

Further auctions saw German rights sold to Hoffman und Campe, Italian rights to Edizioni E/O, and UK and Commonwealth audio rights to Audible. An auction for Dutch rights is ongoing.

Tomasz Jedrowski was born in Germany to Polish parents, but has lived in several countries, speaks five languages, and is a graduate of Cambridge University and Université de Paris. He currently lives in Warsaw but often travels to the UK. SWIMMING IN THE DARK is his first novel.