The China Factory

The China Factory

Stories by Mary Costello

Published: 
May 2012
Pages: 
159 pages
ISBN: 
9781906539269
Purchase: 

This edition is now out of print. A new edition is forthcoming from Canongate!

 

Winner of the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book of the Year 2014 and Eason Novel of the Year for Academy Street

An elderly schoolteacher recalls the single act of youthful passion that changed her life forever; a young gardener has an unsettling encounter with a suburban housewife; a wife who miscalculated the guarantees of marriage embarks upon an online affair. And in the title story a teenage girl strikes up an unlikely friendship with a lonely bachelor.

Love, loss, betrayal. Grief, guilt, longing. The act of grace or forgiveness that can suddenly transform and redeem lives. In these twelve haunting stories Mary Costello carefully examines the passions and perils of everyday life and relationships and, with startling insight, casts a light on the darkest corners of the human heart.

What emerges is a compassionate exploration of how ordinary men and women endure the trials and complexities of marriage, memory, adultery, death, and the ripples of disquiet that lie just beneath the surface. With a calm intensity and an undertow of sadness, she reveals the secret fears and yearnings of her characters, and those isolated moments when a few words or a small deed can change everything, with stark and sometimes brutal consequences.
 

 

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Mary Costello is originally from East Galway and now lives in Dublin. Her stories had previously been anthologised and published in New Irish Writing and in The Stinging Fly. The China Factory was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award in 2012. Mary's novel, Academy Street, is published by Canongate (October 2014) and Farrar, Straus and Giroux (April 2015).

 

Also by Mary on our site:
 

Diamond Day — by Mary Costello (April 25, 2012)

The Twinkle in Edna’s Eye — by Mary Costello (September 19, 2011)

Mary Costello's New York Diary — part 1 (August 17, 2011)

 

Reviews: 

"It is the accumulation of tiny pleasures . . . that makes The China Factory such a satisfying and accomplished debut.

Like Alice Munro, Costello is not afraid of a good car accident, a cancer diagnosis, the arrival on the scene of a roaring madman . . . This is a writer unafraid of the graveside, or the bedside, of filling the space of the story to the brim. Large events happen in small lives – people die, for a start, they fall in and out of love, they have children and affairs. The slow leaking of love out of a relationship is described in particular and terrible banality, as Costello's characters move about their ordinary rooms. There is a kind of immaculate suburban sadness in many of these tales.
 
Her writing has the kind of urgency that the great problems demand – call them themes; they are the kind of problem that make a writer. With a bit of luck, they could keep her at the desk for the rest of her life."
 
Anne Enright, The Guardian

 

"A publishing coup . . . there are shades of John McGahern and William Trevor in many of these disquieting tales of loss and regret but Costello's nimble, exacting prose style is very much her own. The stories engage with the human condition in such a profound way it's no wonder they leave an indelible mark."

Daragh Reddin, The Metro Herald, (4-star review)

 

"These twelve stories examine the dark side of everyday life . . .  Echoing Thomas Hardy, she reveals how even ordinary lives can be full of drama and incident . . .  Beautifully crafted but never pretentious, Costello's stories are stark and honest and her characters linger long after you close the book."

Books Ireland

 

"A recurring theme is that of the disappointments embedded in long marriages, the unmet needs never voiced, the “secret thoughts, unspeakable yearnings.  

"In Little Disturbances", we see a man facing his impending death, noticing the world as never before. "The Sewing Room", another strong story, begins in a time when an unplanned pregnancy had, for an unmarried woman, the power to derail her future. In 15 pages, we feel the breadth and depth of a life and its regrets.
 
The subtle underpinnings, the intuitive capacities — the eye for detail, the feel for language, the care of it — are much in evidence . . . One hopes to read more of Mary Costello."
 
Molly McCloskey, The Irish Times
 
 
"Twelve perfect stories . . . Mary Costello has an acute ear for dialogue, but her real talent is for choosing what to leave unsaid . . . A collection of exquisite stories so intricately wrought, so unique and enthralling as to be utterly bewitching."
 
Lorraine Courtney, Sunday Independent
 
 
"The China Factory is a remarkable debut. It epitomises everything that is special and wonderful about the short story genre. It introduces us to a powerful new voice in Irish literature, a voice that we will hopefully hear again and again."
 
Des Kenny, Galway Advertiser
 
 
"A sense of inescapable isolation runs through Mary Costello's unsettling, beautifully-crafted short story collection . . . They are connected thematically and by the clarity and precision of Costello's writing, but also through recurring images and events that echo in a dreamlike way throughout the book . . . A highly impressive, tightly-written debut."
 
Chris Binchy, The Sunday Business Post
 
 
"['This Falling Sickness'] is a perfect piece; where pace, character, restraint, emotion all exquisitely combine . . . again a story about coming to terms with delayed bereavement, in this instance two bereavements, a child and a husband; both accidental and both happening at a distance from the subject of the story, Ruth. And about her not being able to intervene to prevent these falling accidents. This story is simply a masterpiece.
 
This is a powerful collection from a very fine unshowy writer."
 
The Irish Independent
 
 
"Despite its variety of subject and character, there is a wonderful consistency throughout the collection in terms of its compassion, curiosity and grace. These stories give very real glimpses—sometimes unsettling, sometimes cathartic—of ordinary people in their moments of self-discovery and trial."
 
Michelle Bailat-Jones, Necessary Fiction
 
 
"There’s an economy to the prose here, and I know that’s an over-used phrase, but it’s true: there’s a proper sense of depth to each moment and to each character, and the whole effect is of a situation brimming with emotion — and we, the readers, are seeing only the crucial portions of each, larger story . . . Costello is one hell of a writer."
 
Valerie O'Riordan, Bookmunch
 
 
"You are there, on the underside of a character’s skin, in her mind, behind his sightline, swimming pacifically in the underwaterness of their emotions, somehow muted and color-sharp at once. If there is something that ties these stories together, it is not so heady as a theme, like “the existential state of aloneness.” It is more that loneliness envelops the world of each story like a living, moving thing, and in the opening sentences, a kind of emotional atmosphere opens up, like a tiny mouth, where the reader enters, slips in quietly, whereupon the mouth closes, seals the reader in. If this description strikes you as sexual, then it’s not far off; these stories want all of you, mind and body and soul, like a consummation."
 
Sonya Chung, The Millions
 
 
"Irish writer Costello shows a mastery of the short-fiction form in her first collection. Her prose is subtle, strong, and lyrical, while her knowledge of human nature yields memorable characters."
 
Booklist
 
 

Image credit: 

Cover Design: Sinéad McKenna