My thoughts: I am drawn to slim novels that cover a lot of ground, so I was quite intrigued by Academy Street, which has only 160 pages but covers Tess's entire life. As I read, I was enchanted, both by Tess and by Costello's writing and narrative choices. To cover a life in such a slim volume, it's obvious many things are left out. Costello emphasizes some times more than others and manages to write away years in a single sentence without feeling anything is lost. For most of Academy Street, it works. Aren't most years of our lives utterly ordinary? That's exactly what drew me to the character of Tess.
Without divulging exactly what or how, there is a major synchronous event that stripped much of my enjoyment out of this story. As I pondered why this choice of Costello's bothered me so much, I settled on a simple reason: it didn't feel authentic. As audacious as it is for me to question the authenticity of someone else's fictional characters, I must. This event negatively impacted my enjoyment of this otherwise beautiful novel. It turned a beautiful character-driven novel into someone else entirely. Clearly, it didn't work for me, but I imagine one's enjoyment of this novel hinges on one's reaction to this event.
Favorite passage: " So many Feelings between people were encoded in gesture and silence, because words fell short."
The verdict: Academy Street is a fascinating, deeply moving novel, but my love for it was dampened by one pivotal moment. Despite my issues with this moment, this novel is worth reading, and Costello is a literary talent to watch.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 160 pages
Publication date: April 7, 2015
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