NFA Column: 2021 Book Previews

Publishers of the Northern Fiction Alliance look ahead at what’s to come in 2021 and highlight their most exciting forthcoming titles.


Saraband is an award-winning independent publisher of outstanding fiction, absorbing nature writing, pressing environmental issues and compelling memoir, based in Salford, Manchester.

Castles from Cobwebs, J.A. Mensah – 18 February

From the winner of the inaugural Northbound Book Award…
Imani is a foundling. Raised by nuns on a Northumbrian Island, she grows up with an increasing sense of displacement. After the death of her biological mother, Imani travels to Ghana – beginning a journey of self-discovery that illuminates the stories we all tell to make ourselves whole. 

“From start to finish, I was spellbound … I absolutely love this book.” Yvonne Battle-Felton



In a Veil of Mist, Donald S Murray – 11 March

Operation Cauldron, 1952: Top-secret germ warfare experiments on monkeys and guinea pigs are taking place aboard a vessel moored off the Isle of Lewis. A haunting exploration of the cost of war and the Cold War Arms race, In a Veil of Mist tells the story of another little-known incident in the Outer Hebrides with the same empathy and poignancy of his prize-winning first novel.

“One of the great lyrical writers of our time.” Cathy Macdonald



Shocked Earth, Saskia Goldschmidt – 1 April

A timely novel that tells the dark side of fracking. In Shocked Earth, acclaimed Dutch novelist Saskia Goldschmidt has penned a compelling family drama that gets to the heart of the great debate of our time: how industry and farming can and must change before their environmental impact is irreversible.

“Shocked Earth exquisitely captures the way our lives and identities are interwoven with the land we live on, and how its destruction will ultimately be our own… it is perhaps most of all an essential call to action – I was both heartbroken and inspired.” Helen Sedgwick

Shocked Earth has been translated from Dutch into English by Antoinette Fawcett.



Approval, John D Rutter – August

From the winner of the Northbound Book Award 2020…
Approval follows would-be parents David and Cici through a year of forays into past experiences and relationships – and encounters with faceless bureaucracy – in hopes of being approved by the adoption authorities. Tackling the painful and lonely journey of trying to embark on family life, this brave novel is viewed from a perspective rarely explored in fiction – a man’s response to infertility.



Case Study, Graeme Macrae Burnet – October

Graeme Macrae Burnet’s highly anticipated fourth novel is coming in October 2021.

Case Study transports us to the 1960s as we follow a young woman’s investigation into the forgotten psychotherapist Arthur Collins Braithwaite – a controversial contemporary of R.D. Laing ­– who she believed responsible for her sister’s suicide. In her determination to uncover the truth, she assumed the name Rebecca Smyth and went to Braithwaite for therapy sessions. In Case Study, Graeme Macrae Burnet presents her account interspersed with biographical material on Braithwaite, giving readers the opportunity to reach their own conclusions about the truth of what occurred.


Peepal Tree Press

Peepal Tree Press is the world’s leading publisher of Caribbean and Black British Writing.


Weighted Words, edited by Jacob Ross – 15th January 2021

From the colonial idea of ‘British’ tea; the demasculinising experience of infertility in a Jamaican family; a Black woman being both tourist and tourist attraction on her travels in South Asia, and what it meant to be ‘everybody’s midwife’ in an institutionally racist NHS, through to the experience of an Indian migrant child in the ‘country of ‘the oppressor’ – these are just a few of the themes explored in Weighted Words a new anthology by  Peepal Tree Press’ Readers and Writers Group.

The group comprises writers living in Leeds and West Yorkshire.  Through poetry, short stories, confessionals and memoirs, contributors interrogate race, gender, relationship with self and with family, as well as identity in contemporary Britain.

Moments of self-reflection sit alongside longer accounts of familial conflicts, personal struggles, and the enduring repercussions of marginalisation.

Edited by Jacob Ross, Weighted Words includes the work of established poets like Malika Booker, Khadijah Ibrahiim and Sai Murray alongside previously unpublished writers. Here, a dazzling mix of fresh perspectives and backgrounds mesh and complement each other in a powerful collage of individual experiences, giving rise to a rich and wide-ranging anthology.



The Gift of Music and Song: Interviews with Jamaican Women Writers, Jacqueline Bishop – 28th January 2021

This beautiful collection of interviews, conducted by journalist, poet, novelist and artist Jacqueline Bishop, features insightful and entertaining conversations with eighteen of Jamaica’s most significant writers including Olive Senior, Lorna Goodison, Marcia Douglas and many more. 

In this collection of interviews, Jacqueline Bishop is in conversation with eighteen female Jamaican writers, some of whom have emigrated from the island. This deeply intimate and personal encounter between the writer and artist, Bishop, and those she admires touches on the tensions, reflections and memories one has when writing about one’s birthplace.



The Shape of That Hurt by Gordon Rohlehr – 11th March 2021

Continuing on from his outstanding collection of literary criticism, My Strangled City and other essays, literary critic and Professor Gordon Rohlehr delves further, examining the work of sam Selvon, Louise Bennett, Kamau Brathwaite, Derek Walcott and many other luminaries of the Caribbean. Originally published by Longman in 1992, this is a marvellous addition to the Caribbean Modern Classics series.



Comma Press

Comma Press is a not-for-profit publisher based in Manchester, specialising in the short story and fiction in translation. It is committed to a spirit of risk-taking, and aims to put the short story at the heart of contemporary narrative culture. It is the founding publisher of the Northern Fiction Alliance.


The Book of Ramallah, edited by Maya Abu Al-Hayat – 4th March

Ten stories by ten Palestinian authors about the city of Ramallah. As the stories in this anthology demonstrate, Ramallah is a city of countless contradictions; defiant in its resistance against the occupying forces, but frustrated and divided by its own secrets and conservatism. Characters fall in love, have affairs, poke fun at the heavy military presence, but also see their aspirations cut short, their lives eaten into, their morale beaten down by the daily humiliations of the conflict. Through humour, and precious moments of intimacy, however, we glimpse life inside this city of refuge; an image of hope abiding even under the eye of a merciless occupation.



The Book of Venice, edited by Orsola Casagrande – 15th April

Ten stories by ten Italian writers about the city of Venice. With its gondola-filled canals and beautiful architecture, the ‘floating city’ of Venice is unlike anywhere else in the world. It is a city where apparent opposites intersect; at once aquatic and terrestrial, past and present, east and west, spiritual and carnal, imaginary and real. It is this mystery and multiplicity that has long offered inspiration to writers and storytellers; from Thomas Mann and Proust, to Elizabeth Wharton and TS Eliot. In his 1882 essay ‘Venice’, Henry James famously wrote that there “was nothing new” to be said about Venice. The short stories gathered in this anthology – each written by writers based in or from the city – challenge this notion, offering new perspectives on one of the world’s most coveted destinations.



The American Way: Stories of Invasion, edited by Ra Page & Orsola Casagrande – 27th May

After four years of Trump, America seems set to return to political normality. But for much of the rest of the world, that normality is a horror story: 75 years of US-led invasions, CIA-sponsored coups, election interference, stay-behind networks, rendition, and weapons testing… all in the name of Pax America, the world’s police. If you are not an ally of the US, in this ‘normality’, your country can find its democratic processes undermined and its economic wellbeing conditioned upon returning to the fold. If you’re not strategically important to the US, you can find yourself its dumping ground.

This new anthology re-examines this history with stories that explore the human cost of these interventions on foreign soil, by writers from that soil. From nuclear testing in the Pacific, to human testing of CIA torture tactics, from coups in Latin America, to all-out invasions in the Middle and Far East; the atrocities that follow are often dismissed in history books as inevitable in the ‘fog of war’.



The Book of Reykjavik edited by by Becca Parkinson & Vera Juliusdottir – 17th June

Ten stories by ten Icelandic writers about the city of Reykjavik. Reykjavik, on the coast of Iceland, is known for its striking architecture, Viking heritage and volcanic activity, Reykjavik attracts a constant stream of visitors all year round to a diminutive capital city that is home to more than half of Iceland’s population. Icelanders hold their writers and poets in the same regard as the kings, queens and heroes of their mythic past, and have a deep-rooted love of literature. It is said every Icelander has a story up their sleeve. Here we have gathered ten short stories by ten Icelandic authors which captures this vibrant, modern city that is brimming with creative energy, and unearth the cosmopolitan metropolis hiding in the guise of a small-town fishing village.


Refugee Tales: Volume IV, edited by David Herd & Anna Pincus – 29th July

In a difficult year marked by divisive politics, ongoing Brexit negotiations, and a global pandemic, the plight of the refugee has been dropped from the front pages. But as the coronavirus death toll rises, the cost of denial and indecision is paid by real people: old and young, sick and healthy, and the forgotten refugees and asylum seekers who continue to suffer the inhumanity of indefinite detention.

While we’ve seen nations failing and hostile environments on the rise across the globe, poets, novelists and writers have once again collaborated with people who have experienced detention to retell their stories, appearing alongside first-hand accounts from those who have been detained not only in the UK, but across the globe in Chile, Canada and Italy.

In this fourth volume of tales, we hear the ongoing struggle within these ‘hostile environments’, 70 years after the 1951 Refugee Convention which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.