Nominated by:

Galway County Library, Ireland

Limerick City & County Libraries, Ireland

Waterford City & County Libraries, Ireland

Christchurch City Libraries, New Zealand

Dublin City Public Libraries, Ireland

Publisher of nominated edition:

Canongate, UK

Text Publishing Company, Australia

Academy Street

Mary Costello    

2016 Shortlist

Judges’ comments

This typical Irish story, very similar in spirit to Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, is exquisite. A very strong and very skillfully written first part, when the main character is still in Ireland, but what seems extremely well accomplished here is that although told in the third person singular, contrary to the rule, the narrative sounds very intimate, painful and moving. Uncommonly, the narrator here, though omnipresent, is somehow very affectionate as if his voice comes right from the heroine’s heart. She herself is a colourless character rendered colourful through the events that mould her and more specifically through the new circumstances in her life. Very vividly is presented the difference between the dynamic and full of energy city of New York, which dazzles her, compared to the dull and slow-moving life in her native rural Ireland. Tess Lohan is the name of the heroine. She witnesses the death of her mother and temporarily loses her speech capacity. Goes to New York, followed by her brother and gets pregnant by a rich boy, who disappears from her life when he learns the truth. Hazards follow, in which she is all alone, but proves to be a fighter destined to survive at the cost of many incurable wounds. An emotionally beautiful story written with insight and with the evocative pen of a fine master

About the Book

She stood on the edge of the grass. She hovered between worlds, deciphering the ground, tracing in mid-air the hall, the dining-room, the stairs. She was despairingly close to home now, to the rooms and the voices that contained the first names for home. Memories abounded and her heart pounded and history broke in . . .

Growing up in the west of Ireland in the 1940s Tess is a shy introverted child. But beneath her quiet exterior lies a heart of fire. A fire that will later drive her to make her home among the hurly burly of 1960s New York.

Over four decades and a life lived with quiet intensity on Academy Street in upper Manhattan, Tess encounters ferocious love and calamitous loss. But what endures is her bravery and fortitude, and her striking insights even as she is ‘floating close to hazard.’

Joyous and heart-breaking, restrained but sweeping, this is a profoundly moving story that charts one woman’s quest for belonging amid the dazzle and tumult of America’s greatest city.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Mary Costello grew up in County Galway. Her collection of short stories, The China Factory, was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award. Her stories have been published in various anthologies and broadcast on radio. She lives in Dublin.

Librarians’ Comments

An intimate story of an ordinary person.

This is a beautifully crafted book which explores the debth of one person’s life in a thoughtful and illuminating way. It is an absorbing and thoughtful novel that richly rewards the reader.

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