Pantera Press acquires The Gallows Bird by Barbara Sumner


Pantera Press is thrilled to announce the acquisition of world rights for The Gallows Bird by Barbara Sumner via Nadine Rubin Nathen at High Spot Literary.

The Gallows Bird is a literary historical fiction novel that follows Hannah ‘Birdie’ Bird: a laundry maid working in a manor house in London 1838, with a hidden past and a suspicion that the wealthy family she serves is hers. A secret synesthete who longs for beauty and liberation, Birdie risks everything to change her circumstances, committing an audacious silk heist that turns horribly wrong. Betrayed, Birdie finds herself swept up in a wave of female prisoners sent to the early Australian settlement to balance out the scarcity of women in the colonies. As convicts destined for the notorious Parramatta Female Factory, the journey drives the women to deepest despair, but also to form great bonds of solidarity, and Sumner brings a striking vivacity and humanity to this journey and the story of what’s waiting for the women on their arrival in Sydney Cove.

Publisher Lex Hirst shares her excitement for the novel. ‘The hidden story of female convicts brought to life by a character so real she makes you see the world anew. Rich, embroiling and edge-of-your-seat engrossing, The Gallows Bird is historical fiction at its finest by a thrilling new literary voice.’

Barbara Sumner has also shared her story of how the epic tale came to be. ‘Twenty-five years ago, the indomitable Hannah Bird arrived fully formed in my imagination. Writing or not writing Birdie was with me,’ she says. ‘And then, during the editorial process, I uncovered my genealogical connection. An ancestor who, by all accounts, shared many of Birdie’s traits, including her vexation with her life and her propensity for crime. I am thrilled this tale that has lived in me for so long has found such a great home at Pantera Press.’

Drawn from the rarely celebrated true stories of female convicts, The Gallows Bird vividly evokes a far-off time. This striking debut tells the story of enduring love and friendship, and the bold, wildly underestimated women who refused to let history dictate the boundaries of their lives.

High Spot Literary co-founder and agent Nadine Rubin Nathen passes on her enthusiasm for this sweeping epic and its new home. ‘We are thrilled to have found such a wonderful, dedicated publishing partner in Pantera Press for Barbara Sumner’s debut novel, The Gallows Bird,’ she says.

Publication is scheduled for May 2024.