This post is also available in: العربية

Cairo’s Dar Altanweer has snapped up Arabic rights to a debut literary thriller by a former staffer at Penguin Canada that has lit up the publishing world with a blaze of record-breaking deals.

The Push is by Ashley Audrain, former publicity director at Penguin Canada, and has now sold in more than 20 territories including Viking/Penguin in the US and Canada and Penguin Random House imprint Michael Joseph in the UK.  Rights are being handled by UK agent Madeline Milburn at her eponymous agency in London, with the UK deal believed to be worth £1m ($1.2m) and the US deal an even higher seven-figure number.

Dar Altanweer’s partner Sherif-Joseph Rizk hails the novel as “a thriller that has the potential to become a classic of sorts – material for both upmarket and commercial audiences”.

In a hectic fortnight the agency’s director Liane-Louise Smith has negotiated a clutch of deals including Catalan, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Portuguese (EU), Portuguese (SA), Polish, Russian, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish.  The novel is currently under offer in Serbian and Simplified Chinese and is the agency’s fastest-selling property.

In the UK, Michael Joseph’s fiction publishing director Maxine Hitchcock said: “The Push perfectly blends a tense, psychological page-turning plot with masterful storytelling powered by a persuasive voice that made publishers around the world immediately take notice,”  The publisher added: “Described as a modern day We Need to Talk About Kevin and for fans of Celeste Ng and Leïla Slimani’s Lullaby, The Push is about the making and breaking of a family, told through the eyes of a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for. In fact, it’s everything she always feared.”

Hitchcock added: “I felt almost hypnotised by it, chilled by its beauty as she gives us glimpses of a daydream and a nightmare all at once. The opening scene has the hallmarks of a classic and is only matched by the closing one. But this isn’t a book about twists and turns, though it has many – it’s a simply sensational story powerfully told with characters who hold up an uncomfortable mirror to ourselves.”

Smith said of the global reception to the thriller: “The international response to The Push has been absolutely mind-blowing. Everyone has been captivated by it, and we’ve been inundated with passionate emails and staggering offers since submitting. It has broken countless records for the agency [with] unprecedented pre-empts and auctions. Ashley is a rare talent.  One publisher describing her as “one of the biggest talents to have emerged in this century”.  It’s truly exciting to be bringing her writing to so many readers around the world.”

Audrain began writing the thriller after leaving her job as publicity director at Penguin Books Canada in 2015 in order to raise her two young children.  Prior to Penguin, she lived and worked in Los Angeles, and at a global public relations agency in Toronto, where she now lives.   She said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be published by Penguin Random House in so many leading markets across the world. The iconic Michael Joseph imprint is home to many authors I read and admire”.

The Push will be published in English simultaneously in the US and UK in early 2021, and Dar Altanweer expects to publish in Arabic at the same time, subject to the contract.