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HarperCollins UK imprint Borough and Workman imprint Algonquin in the US has bought the second novel by Kuwaiti author Layla AlAmmar.  Arabic rights have not yet been sold.  Entitled Silence is a Sense, the novel is being compared to both the ManBooker shortlisted Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and also the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window.

Borough says the novel tells the “lyrical and moving story of a traumatised, mute Syrian refugee who is gradually drawn into the lives of her neighbours in an unnamed UK city, while also secretly writing for a newspaper”.  The novel explores the refugee crisis and the rise of xenophobic, alt-right opinion in Europe.

Ann Bissell, publicity director and commissioning editor at Borough, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights excluding Canada from Ben Fowler at Abner Stein, on behalf of Melissa Edwards at Stonesong in New York.  North American rights have gone to Betsy Gleick at Algonquin.  Both Borough Press and Algonquin will publish Silence is a Sense in spring 2021.

Edwards said “so far only UK and Commonwealth rights have been sold and I would love to find an Arabic publisher.  In Silence is a Sense, Layla AlAmmar has delivered an overwhelming story of trauma and growth that encourages empathy in the reader. I am so proud to be a part of Layla’s blossoming career as a novelist”.

Bissell said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to continue to publish Layla. She is an incredibly talented writer with a big literary future. Silence is a Sense tells the story of a Syrian refugee who slowly becomes involved in the lives of those around her, in a community where the local mosque is both a symbol of hope and fear.”

AlAmmar’s debut novel The Pact We Made was published by Borough Press in March 2019.  She completed an MSc in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh in 2014 and soon after completed her first full-length novel. She will begin a PhD in Arab Women’s Fiction at Lancaster University in 2019, and has also had short stories published in a wide variety of magazines.  Her short story ‘The Lagoon’ was shortlisted for the Aesthetica Magazine Creative Writing Award 2014.  She was British Council International Writer in Residence at the Small Wonder Short Story Festival in 2018.

She lives in Kuwait and says of her latest deal: “I’m so pleased to be partnering with Borough Press again.  Working with Ann has been a dream, and I can’t wait to do it all again with Silence is a Sense.