Translator Mackenzie's 'compelling' debut goes to Borough

Translator Mackenzie's 'compelling' debut goes to Borough

Borough Press will publish the debut novel of Trinidadian translator Caroline Mackenzie following a three-way auction.

Ann Bissell, publicity director at HarperCollins, and commissioner, has acquired One Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie, for Borough Press. Bissell bought UK & Commonwealth rights excluding Canada in a three-way auction from Sue Armstrong at C&W Agency.

TV rights were instantly snapped up by Netflix, handled by Luke Speed at Curtis Brown, and US rights were acquired by Dawn Davis, v.p. and publisher at 37 INK, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, from Zoe Sandler at ICM Partners.

The debut novel is described as a "funny, fresh and unique story of family, home and first love” with hardback publication slated for March 2020.

"Having escaped crumbling, socialist Venezuela, Yola Palacios hopes she and her family can finally settle into a peaceful new life in Trinidad,” Borough said. "Life for the Palacios is never quiet, and when Yola’s formidable Aunt Celia dies, the family once again find themselves living on the edge. For Celia had been keeping a very big secret – a local criminal called Ugly to whom Celia owes an awful lot of money. Without the funds to pay him off, Ugly forces the entire family to do his bidding until Celia’s debt is settled. What Ugly says, the Palacios do, otherwise: big trouble."

One Year of Ugly arrived unsolicited on my desk and the moment I started reading I fell in love with Yola, our spirited narrator," Armstrong said. She went to praise the the "compelling mix of warmth, humour, energy and urgency" in Mackenzie's writing.

Bissell said "The moment Sue told me she had a debut novel about a Venezuelan family living illegally in Trinidad, I knew I had to buy it. One Year of Ugly is an immigration story exploring exile, belonging and exploitation with hilarity, verve and compassion. In Yola Palacios, Caroline has created a character unlike any other I have met: she is brilliantly witty and brutally funny in her observations. I absolutely love her and I hope many readers will too."

Mackenzie, a freelance translator living in Trinidad, described the deal as "a dream come true".

"Through my daily translation work, I’ve been noting the influx of Venezuelans in response to the political and economic crisis for years, and have been both fascinated and disheartened by the local reaction to it," she said. "I knew there was a story to be told of the Venezuelan migrant experience in Trinidad, and I’m so happy I was able to tell it through Yola."

The author added: "I couldn’t be more grateful to Sue for believing in this novel and finding me the ideal imprints in Borough Press and 37 INK to help me share it with readers."

A national scholar, Mackenzie studied in the UK on an open scholarship for four years to qualify as a specialist translator before returning to her native Trinidad, where she began writing more extensively. 

Her short fiction has appeared in literary publications around the world and she was shortlisted for the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and is the winner of the 2018 Small Axe Literary Competition for her satirical short story 'The Chicken Coup: A Distinctly Masculine Adventure for Distinctly Manly Men'.