Academy Street by Mary Costello

AcademyIt seems to be the in thing to compare novels to Stoner. Of the many titles I’ve seen with the ‘If you liked Stoner then you’ll love….’ tag, this is the most deserving of comparison.

It spans the life of Tess Lohan, growing up in Ireland (in present tense, like life is to a child), then as an adult emigrating to the US (in the past tense). It is written with beautiful insight and maturity, with the perfect amount of detail. Tess is quiet, even mute for a spell, and lives a sort of ordinary life. It’s hard not to love a character who reads: Tess “became herself, her most true self, in those hours among books. I am made for this, she thought.”

I didn’t love the ending, but I wanted other people to have read it so I could talk about why it didn’t feel quite right to me. It provokes discussion.

It’s one of those brilliant novels which shows how each person, however apparently unremarkable, experiences the full gamut of love and loss, tragedy and happiness.

If you’re writing a novel, don’t feel you have to write a hero, write a human.

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