Novella a Day in May 2022 No.31

Academy StreetMary Costello (2014) 179 pages

My final novella of Novella a Day in May 2022! Each time I’ve done this project I’ve been uncertain I would finish and this year more than ever looked shaky, as my post-covid brain hasn’t recovered to quite the extent I thought. Still, I’m really glad to have made it and discovered some wonderful novellas along the way. It’s been especially great this year to have Simon at Stuck in a Book doing the project too, and adding many more novellas to my TBR 😊

My final choice is a novella that I remember getting a lot of love in the blogosphere when it was published in 2014. Academy Street by Mary Costello follows Tess Lohan from her childhood in Ireland to adulthood in the US, raising her son on the titular New York street in the 1960s.

Do you know, dear reader, I started writing this post in my usual style but I’ve just deleted it all. I’ve decided instead to pull my favourite passage from Academy Street, and simply say that if you like this, I think you’ll like the novella. The scene is adult Tess, cutting her taciturn father’s hair. He is a grieving man in a great deal of pain over many years, and this has made him distant from his children.

“He turns his head towards her, and she waits to be denounced. He looks at her, baffled, stunned, as if he has suddenly found himself somewhere else. His chin begins to quiver, and he looks down. She is flooded with tender feelings for him. She sees for the first time all he has endured. Holding things together, holding himself together, poised, always, to defend against a new catastrophe. She gets up and lays a towel on his shoulders and begins to cut his hair. Neither of them says a word. She is moved by his silent acquiescence. Gently she takes each strand and cuts, the sound of the scissors in the air between them, the hair falling to the floor. And his sorrow, for all that is lost, lying silent within him.”

I really loved Academy Street. A beautifully observed novella of a quiet, ordinary life and of the distances and touchpoints between people.

So that’s it! Another NADIM come to end. Despite flagging at times I’ve really enjoyed it. And now I plan to go from one extreme to the other. From 31 books under 200 pages, to a single tome of 933 pages. I’m setting myself the goal of getting it read by 16 June. Those of you who recognise the date as Bloomsday will be way ahead of me here. It was published 100 years ago, and so for the centenary I’m finally going in…

26 thoughts on “Novella a Day in May 2022 No.31

  1. Oh, this is one of my favourite novellas! I loved, loved, loved this one when I read it when it first came out.

    Good luck with your Ulysses project. I read Ulysses about a decade ago now and it was a revelation. I expected to struggle but actually really enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations Madame Bibi. I’ve enjoyed following your reviews of NADIM and have ended up adding plenty to my wishlist.

    What a beautiful scene that sounds, so much emotion being conveyed in all that goes unsaid. Lovely pick to round off the month.

    All the very best with Ulysses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mallika! I’m so glad you liked the reviews and I hope you enjoy the novellas you’ve added to your list.

      I really love novels and plays that can convey the power of the unspoken and the wordless gesture, so this scene really stood out to me.


  3. Haha, you deserve a reward after another amazing NADIM – chocolate, cake, champagne! NOT Ulysses!!! 😂 Well done! I’ve been doing my best to keep my willpower intact, but you’ve slipped a couple onto my wishlist anyway – Nora Ephron and Nina Bawden. Thank goodness you only do this once a year! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations, what an amazing achievement and a brilliant novella to end on and another one for my wishlist. I hope you enjoy Ulysses, I’ve only read it once but it is really worth it, I don’t think it deserves the reputation it has of being inaccessible. I think it’s a work of genius and I think about it often. I’m looking forward to your thoughts, and if you get to go to Dublin on Bloomsday it’s really worth it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve really enjoyed it, especially doing it alongside you! Pencil me in for next year 😀 And thanks for forgiving my rather loose interpretation of ‘novella’ on some days – including today. Glad you finished on a winner – an author I’ve definitely intended to try.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s been so great having you do NADIM too Simon! I’m definitely not a taskmaster – loose interpretation of the rules is fine with me 🙂 I hope you enjoy this if you get to it, I’m definitely encouraged to read more by Mary Costello now.


  6. Congratulations, Madame Bibi – what a fantastic achievement! As others have said, I think you’ve managed this brilliantly across the whole month, especially given that you’re still feeling the impact of COVID. I do hope that any residual brain fog and tiredness ease up very soon.

    Academy Street is such a beautiful, deeply affecting novella – a wonderful pick to round off your NaDiM reading project. I’ve been really impressed with the diversity of styles/types of novellas you’ve chosen this year. Much broader than the usual suspects that tend to turn up on ‘best novellas’ book tables and lists. You deserve credit for choosing so thoughtfully.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Jacqui! I’m definitely on the mend but I’m stuck at the stage of consistently over-estimating how much I can manage! Very grateful to be basically feeling OK though.

      Lovely to hear you enjoyed Academy Street too – I found it so moving.

      Thank you very much for your kind words. I do aim for a range but I always wish I planned it all bit more, especially this year! Maybe one year I’ll actually plan it all fully…


  7. I can’t believe it’s already the end of May and I’ve only dropped by a couple of times all month! I will make sure to go back a see all your novellas.
    You ended the month with a good one – I remember really liking Academy Street.
    Good luck with Ulysses! That’s a book I will probably never get around to reading… not because I’m against it but just because I have so many others to read. But, who knows, maybe you’ll convince me to pick it up right away! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have meant to read this for ages. A friend recommended it to me when it was still in hardback and I bought a kindle copy. I like novels of quiet lives, so it should be right up my street. That is a beautiful quote.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.