The China Factory

Mary Costello

The China Factory
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The China Factory

Mary Costello

A collection of twelve exquisite stories that explore how ordinary men and women endure the trials and complexities of life and the ripples of disquiet that lie beneath the surface.

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 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.

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.

The stories in this collection:
The China Factory
You Fill up My Senses
Things I See
The Patio Man
This Falling Sickness
Sleeping with a Stranger
And Who Will Pay Charon?
The Astral Plane
Little Disturbances
Room in Her Head
The Sewing Room


Much of the pleasure of some books is the opportunity to travel to another part of the world, and to feel and breathe with the locals. Mary Costello’s collection of stories, The China Factory, takes us on just such a journey through modern Ireland. We drift along with the everyday flow of life as it moves through rural and urban landscapes, with the young and old of Galway and Dublin brought vividly to life.

Comparison to James Joyce’s Dubliners is irresistible. We have not only a shared location but also a wide view of society evoked through the intimate details of a small community. The same sense of hard-boned, sinewed reality runs through each story, and we are often left wondering if, in fact, there is much ‘fiction’ in this collection at all.

This shouldn’t suggest that The China Factory is merely veiled autobiography. Rather, it is richly imbued with a long-contemplated and thoroughly lived experience. Each story expresses a deeply invested focus on the author’s minutely known world. The China Factory is a book many years in the making and represents decades in Mary Costello’s writing life.

‘Earth, water, air and fire – that’s what goes into china. Who’d ever have thought it? The same stuff we’re all made of.’ One of Costello’s most broken characters utters these words, but it is also what goes into these finely made stories

A.S. Patric, is a writer and bookseller at Readings St Kilda. His most recent book is Las Vegas for Vegans.

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