Catherine Taylor Recommends: New Releases



We’re delighted to feature writer, editor and co-runner of the Brixton Review of Books, Catherine Taylor, on the Belgravia Books blog. Catherine shares some of her favourite new releases, with a focus on titles from independent presses, all available now from Belgravia Books’ online store. 


Self Portrait in Green by Marie Ndiaye, translated by Jordan Stump – Influx Press 

The work of the writer Marie Ndiaye, the author of some 20 novels, is, thankfully, becoming better known through English translation. Winner of multiple awards in her native France, Ndiaye writes with lyricism and precision, always subverting what the reader believes she has set out to do. In her latest novel, Self Portrait in Green (originally published in France in 2005), what begins as auto-memoir turns swiftly to psychological thriller, with subtle undertones of impending climate catastrophe. In every passage the narrator glimpses tantalising incarnations of a mysterious “green woman” as the waters of the Garonne river near her home begin to rise.




Havana Year Zero by Karla Suárez, translated by Christina MacSweeney – Charco Press

“It all happened in 1993, Year Zero in Cuba. The year of interminable power cuts, when bicycles filled the streets of Havana and the shops were empty. There was nothing of anything. Zero transport. Zero meat. Zero hope. I was thirty and had thousands of problems.”

Julia is a maths lecturer who feels she has, in a Havana at breaking point, nothing to lose. She hatches a plot with her former lover Euclid to track down a piece of rumoured evidence: a document which will prove that the telephone was actually invented in Cuba – and by doing so raise the country to a higher status in the world. Marie-Claire described the tour-de-force which follows as “The Name of the Rose Cuban-style”.



Diary of a Film by Niven Govinden – Dialogue Books 

“I was far from others, and still I waited to be seen.”

Niven Govinden’s new novel – about an auteur attending a European film festival with a group of actors to promote his latest film (an adaptation of William Maxwell’s novel The Folded Leaf) and becoming witness to the growing relationship between his two male leads – has been compared, in its tenderness and wisdom, to Rilke’s famous Letters to a Young Poet. A work of art and obsession, of queer love and sexual confusion, this gorgeous piece of fiction is perhaps primarily about stories, and who has the right to tell them.




Touring the Land of the Dead by Maki Kashimada, translated by Haydn Trowell – Europa Editions

Combining two separate novellas, the fiction of rising Japanese literary star Maki Kashimada is a world of inner emotions, memory, desire, and loss. In the first novella and title story, Taichi, depressed since illness forced him to give up work a decade previously, is persuaded by his wife Natsuko – who financially supports him – to travel with her to a spa to which her grandfather had taken Natsuko’s mother when she was small. Their trip becomes a journey into the past, the netherworld, and a reckoning with Natsuko’s own family history. The second novella, Ninety-Nine Kisses, is a graphic, modern reinterpretation of a classic tale by Junichiro Tanizaki, and the claustrophobic “sister complex” between four unmarried women living in contemporary Tokyo.



Corpsing: My Body and other Horror Shows by Sophie White – Tramp Press

“I am writing these stories slowly and in a scattershot fashion. It’s not the way I usually write, and it is terribly frustrating to me.”

Ambitious doesn’t adequately cover the scope and daring of Sophie White’s non-fiction collection about the reality of 21st-century Irish womanhood as experienced by a real live 21st-century Irish woman. Mental illness, grief and addiction collide in an often surreal, starkly funny and intolerably cruel work, which also heralds what must be the first comparison between the writings of Nora Ephron and Bram Stoker.




Simple Passion by Annie Ernaux, translated by Tanya Leslie – Fitzcarraldo Editions

In the early 1990s, the unnamed narrator of Annie Ernaux’s A Simple Passion had a two-year relationship with a married man. In typically frank, spare style, and using her trademark assiduous blend of fact and fiction, Ernaux charts the intense nature of love, and of illicit love in particular: its beginning, its middle and its end. Objectively, coldly, her prose arouses no sentiment but it does inspire admiration, as Ernaux’s narrator searches for the truths learned from a period in her life when every minute of her existence was in thrall to another person.





CATHERINE TAYLOR is a freelance editor and writer, and the former deputy director of English PEN. Her reviews and features appear regularly in Guardian Review, FT Life & Arts, TLS, New Statesman, Prospect, Irish Times, The Economist and the i-paper. She has judged book prizes from the Guardian First Book Award to the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses. Catherine is editor of The Book of Sheffield: A City in Short Fiction (Comma Press, 2019), and is currently working on The Stirrings, a cultural memoir of the city in the 1970s and 80s. She co-runs the free literary quarterly Brixton Review of Books. She tweets @KatyaTaylor.


Posted on 23/03/2021 by Isabelle Flynn in

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