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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

A Face In A Crowd

Academy Street: A Novel - Mary Costello

Academy Street is the story of Tess, an Irish immigrant in America and a single mother, who works as a nurse, often on night-shifts, enduring loneliness and isolation and unable to really fit in with either the society she has left behind or the one into which she has entered.

There's a lambent quality to the writing which is both the novel's strength in that the central character seems to be lit up from within, and also its weakness in that the novel feels rather one-paced, almost like a short-story that has outgrown its form.

Starting with the death of her mother, an event that Tess was barely old enough to understand, and ending in the fall-out from a contemporary terrorist incident, the novel tells the story of a character who often seems helpless against the tide of events, unable to fully understand her own distress or to escape from the consequences of her upbringing.

But it also depicts the small victories contained within her struggle, the love she fees for her child, the pleasure she discovers in discovering literature. In doing so it succeeds in bringing into the spotlight an individual who might otherwise me little more that a face in a crowd.