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Academy Street

A Novel

Mary Costello


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Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (4/7/2015)


"With extraordinary devotion, Mary Costello brings to life a woman who would otherwise have faded into oblivion.”—J. M. Coetzee


Tess Lohan is the kind of woman 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, capturing, in sentence after sentence, the rhythm and intensity of inner life.

Praise For Academy Street: A Novel

“Costello's concern, in this slim novel traversing seven decades, is to bear witness to the intensity of experience that Tess knows from the inside out . . . the writing becomes charged with all the strangeness and vitality of her character.” —Belinda McKeon, The New York Times Book Review

“[Costello] has a gift for relating even life's most calamitous events in matter-of-fact prose, and in doing so laying bare their true devastation . . . Costello is also a master of storytelling shorthand. She understands that what makes a milestone memorable is not its central ceremony but what happens on the margins.” —Maria Crawford, Financial Times

“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

“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 Reviews (starred review)

“Mary Costello is a very gifted writer and this is a beautifully written novel.” —Neil Donnelly, Irish Independent

“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

“Intensely moving but never sentimental, Academy Street is a profound meditation on what Faulkner called ‘the human heart in conflict with itself.' In Tess Lohan, Mary Costello has created one of the most fully realized characters in contemporary fiction. What a marvel of a book.” —Ron Rash, author of Nothing Gold Can Stay

“This first collection has the feel of work that refused to be abandoned; of stories that were written for the sake of getting something important right . . . Costello's work is true, her problems distinctive and the voice all her own . . . Her writing has the kind of urgency that the great problems demand--call them themes; they are the kind of problem that make a writer.” —Anne Enright, The Guardian, on The China Factory

“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

“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

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

“Beautifully understated . . . [Academy Street] draws comparisons to early Joyce or Colm Tóibín.”—San Francisco Chronicle

Picador, 9781250081674, 160pp.

Publication Date: April 5, 2016

About the Author

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.