The China Factory by Mary Costello
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.