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Academy Street

by Mary Costello

Academy Street by Mary Costello X
Academy Street by Mary Costello
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2015, 160 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2016, 160 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie
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Power Reviewer
Cloggie Downunder

A remarkable debut novel.
“Another vocation, then, reading, akin, even, to falling in love, she thought, stirring, as it did, the kind of emotions and extreme feelings she desired, feelings of innocence and longing that returned her to those vaguely perfect states she had experienced as a child.”
Academy Street is the first novel by Irish author, Mary Costello. It chronicles the life of Teresa Lohan, from her youth in rural Ireland in the 1940s through her time in New York and her return to Ireland in her sixties. Tess is seemingly unremarkable, both as a child and an adult: a shy, sensitive child; a woman with an essential loneliness (“It seemed at times that she was marooned on an island, a moat of water, wide and black, separating her from all human love.”); a mother who feels she could have done better. Nonetheless, Costello’s exquisite prose conveys this life with such emotion, such care, that the reader cannot help but be moved. Costello paints her character so vividly, so completely, that the reader can identify with Tess, her feelings (“…the mark of all anxiety: the acute awareness of the endless possibilities that can simultaneously imperil and enhance us, and all that might be lost or gained.”), her ideas (“It Ireland seemed to her now to be a place without dreams, or where dreaming was prohibited. Here, life could be lived at a higher, truer pitch. Though her own was a timid life, there was, since Theo’s birth, a yearning towards motion and spirit and vitality.”), her reactions (“She thought of the water that had lain quietly calm, each tiny drop, each molecule, restful, suddenly wrenched, catapulted through a metal rotary, tossed back out into the turbulent current, reeling, confounded, changed.”). In both style and content, this novel is reminiscent of Sebastian Barry’s work, in particular, “On Canaan’s Side”. A remarkable debut novel.
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