Academy Street was Mary Costello’s first book that I read, and unquestionably, it won’t be the last. When I was wandering in a charity that sells books, I saw this one, and I immediately liked its name. As soon as I saw the cover, I was thrilled because it said: “Brings to mind John Williams’s resurrected masterpiece, Stoner.” I ran to the till to buy it without even reading the blurb because Stoner is one of my all-time favourite books. I would do anything to read similar books and won’t miss a chance. I cannot tell you how glad I am to stumble upon this one.

Academy Street - Mary Costello

Academy Street tells the story of a woman named Tess. Tess, which we follow from the age of seven to her very old age, is a very ordinary person. Actually, she is so ordinary a person that you can meet her on the street, doing shopping or just walking by. But Mary Costello gave her such voice that you lose yourself in her grace. I can say that I was close to those beautiful feelings that I felt while reading Stoner. Costello is an excellent writer, and so are her characters.

Tess, born and raised in Ireland, goes to New York in the 1960s. She tries to build a life for herself and struggles with her loneliness in a big city. And one day, she falls in love. It is magical; it is everything she wants it to be. They are young and beautiful, and they spend a night together. That night inevitably changes her life; nothing will be the same anymore. Nevertheless, Tess continues to live and work despite everything, because that is what life is. You do what you have to do and continue living no matter what.

Academy Street - Mary Costello

This book is beautifully written and will leave you thinking about Tess for a while, and life itself. I tried not to spoil the book for you as much as I can. Please read it if you loved Stoner. You’ll enjoy this as well.

About the book: Academy Street

Academy StreetMary CostelloFiction, Irish LiteratureCanongateMarch 2nd 2015Paperback192Buy now from Amazon

‘With extraordinary devotion, Mary Costello brings to life a woman who would otherwise have faded into oblivion amid the legions of the meek and the unobtrusive.’
J.M. Coetzee

Academy Street is the heartbreaking and evocative story of one woman’s life spanning six decades. Tess’s childhood in 1940’s rural Ireland is defined by the sudden death of her mother. Later, in New York, she encounters the ferocious power and calamity of love and the effects of catastrophic fate. The novel resonates with the rhythms of memory and home as well as those of America’s greatest city.

This is an intimate story about unexpected gifts and unbearable losses, and the perpetual ache for belonging. It is exquisitely written and profoundly moving.

About the author: Mary Costello

Mary Costello is from Galway. Her short story collection, The China Factory (2012), was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award. Her novel, Academy Street (2014), was shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award, the Costa First Novel Prize and the EU Prize for Literature. It won the Irish Novel of the Year Award and the overall Irish Book of the Year in 2014. It has been translated into several languages.

– First Sentence – 

Academy Street - Mary Costello
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

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