Academy Street, by Mary Costello


Academy Street

Mary Costello

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014

145 pages

This is a slim novel (145 pages) that tells the life story of Tess Lohan, an Irish woman who moves to New York in the early 1960s. The book begins with her rural Irish childhood and moves on to chronicle her life in New York, where she works as a nurse and raises a son on her own. The writing it taut and slim, capturing her solitary life with a spareness that reminded me of another Irish writer’s recent debut novel, Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart.

I enjoyed this book for its language and Costello’s ability to distill a life history into so few pages. There is not a lot of story to follow, instead the book chronicles the ups and downs of Tess’s life. But there is something captivating about the book and if you enjoy a small story, this book is worth your time, as Costello deftly captures the two worlds she narrates from. I felt right there with Tess both on her Irish farm, where she loses family members, including her mother at a young age, and in New York, where she builds a life for herself as a single woman and experiences 9/11.

Costello lives in Dublin and I found this nice interview with her, about her writing process, and career, that published a few years back after her debut story collection, The China Factory, came out.

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