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Elizabeth Costello

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Image by Daniele Levis Pelusi

The Good War

In mid 20th century America, a mother and daughter pursue science, art, autonomy, and agency in a male-dominated, war-damaged world.

In 1948, Louise Galle, a chemist and former Rosie-the-Riveter, is pursued by a mysterious veteran who brings a question from her deceased husband, with whom he was a prisoner of war in the Philippines. In New York City in 1964, Louise’s daughter Charlotte eschews a conventional path — falling for the butch lesbian next door and discovering an undeniable call to make art. The Good War unfolds over the course of watershed summers in the lives of two very different women who share a desire to make it new, even as they reckon with painful truths. Atmospheric, lyrical, and psychologically astute, The Good War is for anyone who knows that there is always more to the story of what America was and is. 


Advance Reviews

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"To read Costello is to understand that our mothers and grandmothers lived as passionately as we do today. You’ll think of Highsmith, Didion, Atwood, Jean Stafford, Zadie Smith, Sarah Waters, but Costello is a literary original. Read this novel with highlighter in hand—you’ll surely be marking passages to savor again later—and join me in blasting it from the rooftops: Sentence by sentence, Elizabeth Costello is as good as anyone writing fiction today.”


—K.M. Soehnlein, author of Army of Lovers

“In The Good War, Costello captures post-war America with emotional depth and storytelling verve. Atmospheric and moving, the novel lays bare the inheritances of generational experience—the intensely intimate personal choices in love and the familial wreckage of war—with characters who aim for forgiveness and understanding. Best of all, the two women at the center of this novel emerge with subtle and surprising agency, at the helms of their own lives.”

—Lucy Jane Bledsoe, author of Tell the Rest

The Good War is an impassioned, stylishly written story of two women—a mother and a daughter—set in mid-twentieth-century America. Elizabeth Costello’s narrative mixes elements of literary expressionism à la Thomas Wolfe, film noir, and psychedelia, conducting the reader through a nightscape of thwarted or troublingly realized desires. Along the way, Costello offers a darkly brilliant study of women’s autonomy and agency in a male-dominated and war-damaged world. The hand of a poet is visible in the composition of this stunning debut novel.”


—Andrew Joron, author of O0

“Costello has created a captivating story with richly dimensional female characters who are intelligent, lusty, and burning down all the rules. We need more female characters like these, who are not easily pigeonholed.  A rare novel that is surprising and haunting, all wrapped in gorgeous prose.”


—Nina Schuyler, author of Afterword

“Elizabeth Costello’s The Good War is the kind of once-a-decade work of fiction that compels you to reconsider everything you thought you knew about America. It’s beautifully written, mischievous and crushing. The most self-assured debut novel I’ve encountered in many a year.”


—John Wray, author of Gone to the Wolves

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A chapbook

“With poems that run a stylistic gamut but are always playful and frequently surprising, Elizabeth Costello's RELIC is a poetic cabinet of curiosities, exploring what remains as we careen through life.”

—Marina Lazzara, Two Way Mirror Books


Relic book cover Elizabeth Costello
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Elizabeth Costello’s debut novel, The Good War, will be available for preorder from Regal House Publishers in late 2024. Costello’s poetry and prose have appeared in venues including Fourteen Hills, Crab Orchard Review, SF Weekly, 7x7 and Collosus: Home, an anthology that supports Oakland’s fair housing organization Moms4Housing. Her poetry chapbook RELIC (Two Way Mirror, 2020) can be found at Bird and Beckett Books in San Francisco.


She performed poetry with the Bay Area dance company Moving Ground’s NETWORK Project and, with poet and musician Alex Behr, she emcees “Hot Pockets” — a night of readings from rock memoirs that takes place at Portland’s Turn Turn Turn. An editor for UC Berkeley with deep roots in the Bay Area, Costello has lived in Portland since 2021.

With Portland painter and Soliloquy fine arts owner, Ruth Meijier, and partners at The Writer’s Block, Blackfish Gallery, and The Lobby, she co-founded the Ekphraestival, a collaboration among poets and visual artists. The inaugural Ekphraestival featured two exhibitions of visual art created in response to poetry and a series of readings by Portland and Bay Area poets.

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About Elizabeth

News & Events

The Good War is a great conversation starter. It explores the enduring impact of the Second World War, the struggle for women seeking meaningful lives in a male-dominated world, and the power dynamics in mother/daughter relationships. Best of all, it's a deep and compelling read.

The Good War is perfect for book clubs. 

Book and coffee at sunrise

Be in touch

Check back here for information about readings and events celebratingThe Good War. Or reach out if you'd like to learn more about the Ekphraestival and other collaborations across disciplines. 

The Write Stuff Reading

As part of a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, a Quiet Lightning project, San Francisco/Bay Area authors give exclusive readings from their work.


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