There’s a general assumption that publishers sit in their offices waiting for authors to send them manuscripts. They read them, make a few tweaks and then send them on to the printer. That sounds perfectly reasonable, but, in truth, it happens very rarely. Most books, particularly novels, require months of wrangling, of to-ing and fro-ing and re-writing to get the story, the characters, the tone and rhythm right. It’s a more collaborative process than most readers realise. So, when a near perfect manuscript does land, there’s always a miraculous quality about it. A feeling that here was a book you were meant to publish. For me, it happened three years ago when Paul Kingsnorth sent me his novel, The Wake. And now it’s happened again.
I met Sarah Marr in the most auspicious of spaces – the Medicine House at Blackden where the great British novelist Alan Garner has lived and worked for nearly sixty years. She had pledged to attend the storytelling supper Unbound had organised there to celebrate the publication of First Light, the collection of pieces honouring Alan and his work, edited by Erica Wagner. In the course of the evening, Sarah mentioned she had written a novel and wondered if it was something Unbound might be interested in. We were – we usually are – but nothing could have prepared me for the beauty and intelligence of what arrived a week later.
I won’t dwell on the book here – I want you to pledge and read it for yourself – a except to say it is remarkable: a rich and lyrical novel in which a woman’s investigation into a Victorian painting guided by discovery of the diary of one of the woman models featured in it takes us on a journey filled with insight and revelation. Anna, the narrator, is an emotionally troubled art historian who has a near mystical gift for inhabiting the inner world of the paintings she studies. The writing is memorable and assured – astonishingly so given it is Sarah’s first novel. There will be editing (there always is) but there won’t be much. All the Perverse Angels has the assurance, the feeling of just-rightness, that very few books achieve.
I hope you’ll read it and feel the same astonishment. I was too gripped by the story to think this as I read it, but on reflection it struck me that if we founded Unbound to do anything, it was to allow stories such as this – the ‘quiet books’, as one of our authors calls them – to find the sensitive and intelligent readers they deserve. Join us and help make that happen.