HarperCollins Publishers Australia has acquired ANZ rights to the novel Freida by Marion Taffe, in a deal brokered by Jacinta di Mase of Jacinta di Mase Management Literary Agency.
Write your rage. Fight your battles. Win your war.
Peak District, Mercia, AD 910: a young girl, Freida, forages, farms, cooks and fears her father’s temper, while longing for his approval. She loves hearthside stories of heroes and secretly dreams of one day being able to write; her quills are grass stalks and sticks, her parchment the sky, the earth, her skin. But when her sister is killed in a savage raid by the Danes and her father goes missing, Freida loses everything she loves.
Taken in by the church, her only options are a life of servitude or prayer. But the cunning bishop sees an opportunity, and as well as teaching Freida how to write, he also uses her – the sole survivor of the Viking raid – as evidence of a miracle, so as to attract pilgrims who bring wealth. As Freida chafes against the bishop’s increasing sense of ownership and control over her, she is drawn into the orbit of the Mercian leader Lady Æthelflæd, who shows her what it is to lead as a woman in a world that worships warrior kings. Soon Freida has to choose. Does she remain the powerless, subservient quill whose fate lies in the hands of another, or does she fight for the right to create her own story?
Set in the early tenth century, a tumultuous time when England was on the cusp of becoming one kingdom, Freida is a sweeping, enthralling and compelling novel, one which speaks to the world of medieval manuscripts, the gatekeeping of story, and the creative power of a woman’s anger.
Publisher Catherine Milne said: ‘It only took a chapter for me to topple head over heels into this novel. Set around the same time as Bernard Cornwall’s The Last Kingdom novels about Uhtred of Bebbanburg, this is a beautifully written but propulsively plotted work of historical fiction, with a strongly feminist slant. The world of the novel is incredibly vivid, and I particularly love the way in which Frieda’s story is woven around that of Æthelflæd, the forgotten warrior queen – Alfred’s daughter – whose defiance and defeat of the Norse invaders helped forge the kingdom which became England. It’s a tour de force.’
Marion Taffe said: ‘I have always loved reading. I also wrote lots of letters and I loved journalism. Then in my late 20s, I was reading Rose Tremain’s Music & Silence and I thought, In my next life, I want to be able to write like this. Finally, four years ago, I opened my laptop and began. There is only one life — and only one Rose Tremain. I have my own voice. Freida and I have been learning together in many ways. The seeds of this novel were sown back when I lived in Manchester. I had no idea about England in the time before the Norman Conquest, so I set out to learn and my interest grew. Instead of the ‘Dark Ages’, I found an enlightened world of art and literature that was soulful and sharp – and so many of its texts still ring true today, about the ideals of the stoic warrior and the virgin martyr, or the idea that a woman must cover up and lock herself away to protect herself from violation, which still survives today as modern-day victim blaming and shaming. Especially after years of trying to write and study through lockdowns and home learning with two small children, it is incredible to have Catherine Milne now embrace this story. Then to have literary agent Jacinta di Mase come onboard too, it has been an absolute dream. I’m looking forward to the editing process ahead with this amazing team.’
Freida will be published under the Fourth Estate imprint by HarperCollins in early 2024.