“Academy Street” by Mary Costello is the March 2022 selection for the IrishCentral Book Club.
Each month, we will pick a new Irish book or a great book by an Irish author and celebrate the amazing ability of the Irish to tell a good story for the IrishCentral Book Club.
Throughout March, we’ll be reading “Academy Street” by Irish author Mary Costello, which won the Irish Novel of the Year Award and the overall Irish Book of the Year in 2014. It was also shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award, the Costa First Novel Prize, and the EU Prize for Literature. It has been translated into several languages.
Synopsis for “Academy Street” by Mary Costello
Tess Lohan is the kind of woman that we meet and fail to notice every day. A single mother. A nurse. A quiet woman, who nonetheless feels things acutely—a woman with tumultuous emotions and few people to share them with.
"Academy Street" is Mary Costello's luminous portrait of a whole life. It follows Tess from her girlhood in western Ireland through her relocation to America and her life there, concluding with a moving reencounter with her Irish family after forty years of exile. The novel has a hypnotic pull and a steadily mounting emotional force. It speaks of disappointments but also of great joy. It shows how the signal events of the last half-century affect the course of a life lived in New York City.
Anne Enright has said that Costello's first collection of stories, "The China Factory," "has the feel of work that refused to be abandoned; of stories that were written for the sake of getting something important right . . . Her writing has the kind of urgency that the great problems demand" (The Guardian).
"Academy Street" is driven by this same urgency. In sentence after sentence, it captures the rhythm and intensity of inner life.
Reviews for “Academy Street” by Mary Costello
“Darkly beautiful . . . the opening pages . . . recall in their capturing of a young person's drifting impressions Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man . . . Costello renders her homely, knowing heroine with craft and compassion in this sad, slim, rich novel.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“Costello's writing is so controlled and convincing. She captures with great acuity the complex inner world that makes Tess both withdrawn and desperate to experience life . . . Hers is a quiet life, but one with enormous impact on the reader.” —Sinéad Gleeson, The Guardian
“In Academy Street, [Mary Costello] has hammered her writing--deceptively strong, tonally flat--into a dark, strong book. To call it restrained is to understate both the turbulence buried within the novel and the control with which it's conveyed . . . The handling of time is fluid and cumulatively devastating.” —Ronnie Scott, The Australian
“A remarkable debut with a transcendent, quiet power.” —Judges of the 2014 Costa First Novel Award
“To recount a life story in a novel is a difficult task. To do so with brevity and unsentimental honesty takes greatness. Academy Street is a powerful and emotional novel from one of literature's finest new voices.” —John Boyne, author of "The Absolutist"
“I read Academy Street cover to cover in one night, unable to stop. It is a short novel about a long life, stretching from rural Ireland to post-9/11 New York, and brings to mind the elegance of Colm Toíbín and the insight of Alice Munro. Its stealthy, quiet power will exert a hold over any reader.” —Maggie O'Farrell, author of Instructions for a Heatwave
“Academy Street is understated, graceful and, ultimately, devastating. Even as my heart was breaking I couldn't put the book down.” —Donal Ryan, author of "The Spinning Heart"
About the author Mary Costello
Mary Costello grew up in Galway and now lives in Dublin. Her collection of stories, "The China Factory," was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award. Her first novel, "Academy Street," was named Book of the Year and Eason Novel of the Year by the 2014 Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards and was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award.
Synopsis, reviews, and biographical information provided by Macmillan publishers.
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