It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery which forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church.
Some may be disappointed to discover that Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan’s first novel in more than a decade, is a mere 114 pages long. However, Keegan has never been a writer to waste a word ... An evocative tale of Ireland ... Keegan is clever to funnel the novel’s perspective through Furlong ... The novel isn’t just an eloquent attack on these laundries, however. It is also a touching Christmas tale, genuinely reminiscent of the festive stories of O Henry and Charles Dickens; a novel that has been seeped in sherry and served by the fireside ... As soon as you pick the novel up, it’s all over. The monumental power of Claire Keegan is that she can create these cuckoo-clock narratives where every single word seems to be a necessary contribution to the overall mechanism of the novel. She is all killer, no filler ... Small Things Like These is another minor miracle from Keegan, a book that is nostalgic, touching, brutal and angry. All of which is to say, it is utterly unmissable.
This small, exquisite book leaves a large impression ... Keegan knows how to weigh and pace her sentences, and her fine judgement delivers many subtle pleasures ... Keegan fully exploits the power of understatement. Most of the big events either take place offstage or happened in the past, and if strong emotion is unavoidable, she displaces it with a verisimilitude in keeping with her characters ... Keegan’s restraint in such moments has an amplifying effect ... The climax of Small Things Like These is deeply moving ... Masterpiece.
Small Things Like These brings a fresh and sensitive perspective to an awful period in our collective history. Detailed, insightful and written with striking economy of language, it gets the reader remarkably close to the experience of the character, recalling Faulkner’s line about the best fiction being truer than fact ... Set over a short time span – the busy weeks in the lead up to Christmas – with a linear narrative, the book opens big, like a 19th-century novel, inviting the reader into the world before tapering off to smaller, memorable details ... The depiction of the town and townspeople is equally deft ... Keegan captures a particular time and place, while also setting out the stakes ... In Small Things Like These there are echoes of other great Irish writers ... To say that this new novel is long awaited is an understatement. To say that it doesn’t disappoint is another. Small Things Like These is a timely and powerful book that asks a deceptively simple question: 'Why were the things that were closest so often the hardest to see?'