Lady Cyclist's Novel - New to Bloomsbury

The winner of New Writing Ventures 2007, Suzanne Joinson, publishes her debut novel as part of a two book deal with Bloomsbury in summer 2012. Her literary agent, Rachel Calder, is also a board member of Writers' Centre Norwich and runs the Sayle Literary Agency in Cambridge. 

See beneath for further details, including a Bloomsbury's party for Suzanne Joinson at the London Book Fair, 5.45pm on Monday 11th April.

For a biography and extract of Suzanne's work, follow this link.

Bloomsbury Publishing is delighted to announce that they have acquired World rights in A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, the first of a two book deal, by debut novelist Suzanne Joinson.

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide To Kashgar was acquired in a heated auction between five British publishers from the literary agent Rachel Calder. It will be published by Bloomsbury in the UK, US, Germany and Australia in summer 2012. Bloomsbury is selling translation rights and offers from foreign publishers have already started to come in. Rachel Calder is selling film rights.

Bloomsbury will be hosting a party for Suzanne Joinson on their stand at the London Book Fair at 5.45pm on Monday 11th April – all welcome. Bloomsbury also has major marketing plans for A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar including a fleet of Bloomsbury lady cyclists delivering the bound proofs around London on theirs (and Boris’) bicycles. Keen cyclists include: Katie Bond, Anya Rosenberg, Amanda Shipp, Jude Drake. Keen amateur cyclists include: Helen Garnons-Williams, Ruth Logan, Alexandra Pringle and Penny Edwards.

The novel opens in 1923, and Evangeline English and her sister Lizzie are heading for the ancient city of Kashgar on the Silk Road, to help establish a Christian mission. Lizzie, on fire with her religious calling and carrying her new Leica camera, is in awe of their charismatic and worryingly imperturbable leader, Millicent. Eva’s motives for escaping their bourgeois English life are not quite as clear-cut, nor as noble, but with her glorious, green BSA Lady’s Roadster bicycle to ride on, and a commission to write A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar in her suitcase, she is ready for adventure.

In present day London, a young woman, Frieda returns from one of her long trips abroad to find a man sleeping on the landing outside her front door. She gives him a blanket and pillow and in the morning finds the bedding neatly folded and a beautiful drawing of a bird with a long feathery tail, some beautiful Arabic writing and a boat made out of a flock of seagulls on her wall. Tayeb, in flight from his Yemeni homeland befriends Frieda and, when she learns she has inherited the contents of a flat belonging to a dead woman she has never heard of, they embark on an unexpected journey together.

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar explores the fault lines that appear when the traditions from different parts of an increasingly globalised world crash into each other. Beautifully written and peopled by a cast of unforgettable characters (not to mention an owl), the novel interweaves the stories of Frieda and Eva, gradually revealing the links between them, and they way in which they each challenge and negotiate the restrictions of their societies as they make their hard won way towards home.

Suzanne Joinson says: ‘I have always been interested in travelling women and their subversive, unconventional qualities. The female missionary is often portrayed as a laughable figure, caricatured as straitlaced and repressed. Either that or she is the problematic evangelical enforcement of Western morality onto other cultures. I wanted to write a story that would bring to life the complex, sometimes eccentric motivations of these unusual women, whose journeys led them to immensely distant places. They rejected the marriage pressures of their own society and I wanted to see where that led them, how they lived and how they loved.

For two years I researched letters, diaries and travel writing of British missionary travellers. I discovered Mildred Cable and Francesca French and was struck by the unusualness of their story. Along with a sister, Evangeline French, they spent over forty years travelling across Central Asia and China 1900 – 1940. Reading through the materials I realised that Evangeline’s story was missing and this absence triggered me to invent, imagine and appropriate her. Through my research I discovered that missionary travel offered women the chance to live an alternative life, whether in terms of sexuality, or retreat from conventional marriage pressures, or to escape the feminine qualities required at home.

It is fascinating to me that a pebble, a notebook or a bible found in London could have come all the way from the Gobi desert. Things that travel so far, through time and across distances, are laden with stories that link the past to the present. It’s these invisible threads that I hoped to capture.’

Helen Garnons-Williams, Editorial Director for Fiction commented on the acquisition: ‘In Suzanne Joinson's extraordinary novel, we have found the perfect book and the perfect author for Bloomsbury. This beautifully written and utterly captivating novel, with its characters who are all searching and fleeing and discovering – and connected to each other in ways that they do not, at first understand –explores ideas of history and religion, inheritance and belonging with delicacy and empathy. We are thrilled to be publishing it.’

Nancy Miller, who acquired the novel for Bloomsbury in America said, ‘This is a tremendously exciting acquisition for us – a beautiful, atmospheric, richly conceived, stunningly executed novel that has all the hallmarks of an international bestseller.  It’s impossible not to be swept away in time and place by the parallel stories of the lady cyclist heading for Kashgar on the Silk Road in 1923, and that of young Frieda today, longing to discover where she might really belong.  It’s rare to find a novel that works so brilliantly, so irresistibly, as this does, both intimately on the page and also on a grand scale, and we are thrilled to welcome Suzanne Joinson and A Lady’s Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar—along with her next enticing novel—to the Bloomsbury list.’  

And Dorothee Grisbach said: ‘We are proud and thrilled to publish the German edition of this extraordinary novel at Bloomsbury Berlin!’

Suzanne Joinson works in the literature department of the British Council, specialising in the Middle East, North Africa and China. In 2007 she won the New Writing Ventures award for Creative Non-Fiction for ‘Leila Ahmed’ and has an MA in Creative Writing from Goldsmiths University. She sits on the advisory committee for the Palestinian Writers Workshop and is involved in a grass-roots writer development project with writers from Syria, Yemen and Palestine. She is writer-in-residence at Shoreham Airport (Arts Council funded).

Her personal blog is: http://delicatelittlebirds.wordpress.com/ she tweets at @suzyjoinson and her Shoreham airport blog is: http://shorehambyair.wordpress.com/ 

For further information/interview requests, please contact:

Katie Bond, Bloomsbury Publicity Director, Tel: 0207 494 6012 email: katie.bond@bloomsbury.com