Small Things Like These, book review

The worst was yet to come, he knew. Already he could feel a world of trouble waiting for him behind the next door, but the worst that could have happened was also already behind him; the thing not done, which could have been – which he would have had to live for the rest of his life. What ever suffering he was now to meet was a long way from what the girl had already endured, and might yet surpass. Climbing the street towards his own front door with the barefooted girl and the box of shoes, his fear more than outweighed every other feeling but in his foolish heart he not only hoped but legitimately believed that they will manage.

Why I picked this book?

“Small Things Like These” came as a recommendation from a writer friend on social media. When I checked, I found out that the book was shortlisted for Booker Prize 2022. I had no inkling what this book is all about but based on the recommendation I decided to read this one.

the book

The story is about a family living in an Irish town in 1985. It is the month of December and Christmas is across the corner. The head of the family Bill Furlong is a coal and timber merchant and is facing his busiest season as the demand for coal and timber rises during this season. Bill, due to the demand for coal and timber must work non-stop and make deliveries of timber himself to many of his customers. During one such delivery to a convent, a training school for girls, and a laundry business managed by Church, he found something unusual which bothered him.

Claire Keegan, the author provides an insight into Ireland in the 1980s, all that it was going through, and the geopolitical development it was going through. Which gives the readers an idea of the times she is talking about. Through the protagonist Bill Furlong, the readers get an idea of an average family, their daily routines, and aspirations. The high point is the usage of words and sentences, with few words she can convey so much. Her storytelling is simple yet powerful. You can visualize the town and each character in the story and the emotions they are going through.

Bill Furlong had a not-so-very-good past, as his mother gave him birth during her teenage and he never knew who his father was. People of the town knew about the convent and what was going on there but choose to remain silent and ignore it. Bill Furlong is however in a moral dilemma, either to keep quite and let it be or do something after he saw a girl there in miserable condition.

The book poses many questions. He is doing well in business, happily married with five daughters and all this should make him happy, but somehow this is not the case, there is a sense of uneasiness and dissatisfaction, and Bill is not sure why.

Not only the book is a fascinating read, but it also invokes curiosity in the readers. It made me look for theMagdalene laundry and the details made me sick. Through her book, the author tries to make a point that despite people knowing what was happening in the laundry they choose to look the other way and some like Bill just gave a helping hand to someone and in the process gave hope.

The writing style of the author is beautiful, she has a way with the words. Very few writers have the ability of saying so much and so meaningful in so few words. Storytelling at its best.

About The Author

Claire Keegan is an Irish writer known for her award-winning short stories. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Best AmericanShort Stories, Granta, and The Paris Review; and translated into 20 languages.

Our Verdict

Small Things Like These A great read – short, precise, and impactful. Do read if you like short novels.

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