Small Things Like These – Claire Keegan


❝ As I got underway with Small Things Like These the size and simplicity almost lulled me into feeling like this was going to be a book of little consequence. How wrong I was.

We gently follow the thoughtful day-to-day musings of Bill Furlong as he works delivering coal in the Irish town of New Ross during the lead-up to Christmas 1985. Bill has an idyllic life in comparison to many other villagers, however he sometimes experiences a sense of slight discontent with his situation and often struggles to understand why.  

These feelings lead him to making a monumental decision, the consequences of which we do not learn and can only imagine.

Another Booker short-lister that has entertained and educated, and has also left me feeling bereft. – Suzy

Before long, he caught a hold of himself and concluded that nothing ever did happen again; to each was given days and chances which wouldn’t come back around. And wasn’t it sweet to be where you were and let it remind you of the past for once, despite the upset, instead of always looking on into the mechanics of the days and the trouble ahead, which might never come.

❝ In New Ross, Ireland a man named Bill Furlong works tirelessly delivering coal and firewood to the townsfolk. It is 1985 and Bill has a wife and five daughters to feed and house. He laments his own upbringing and family connections and though not sentimental about it, he does search for clarity and wonder ‘what matters?’

Furlong makes a discovery at one of his customers’ properties, which tests his courage and prompts further consideration of the past, not only his own but also Irish social history’s, shaped by the complicity of a community. Introducing the latter could have resulted in a moral or overwhelming narrative, but Keegan has introduced this theme in a measured and dignified manner and in only the amount of words required. There is no excess.

It is a short book at 116 pages but there is so much in it. It is both a lovely and heart wrenching book and I enjoyed it immensely. – Rachel


Published 2021
Grove Press
116 pages

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