Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
A Reading Ireland Month book
“Heavy is the head that wears a crown.”
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 that forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church.
Already an international bestseller, Small Things Like These is a deeply affecting story of hope, quiet heroism, and empathy from one of our most critically lauded and iconic writers.
Released just in time for Christmas last year, this beautiful tome should have been described as a novella—as you can see–even the audiobook is very short.
Bill Furlong was the child of an unwed mother who was under the employ of a well-to-do widow. The child and his mother were allowed to stay and he grew up under the roof of the kind widow. Bill eventually marries and has five daughters of his own. He has become a successful entrepreneur providing coal to homes in his village for heating. One of his customers is the large monastery where delivering coal just before Christmas he discovers by accident a young girl who begs him to help her escape the nunnery. He cannot at that moment but is haunted by what he saw.
Oh, my… This emotional and poignant little narrative seems to be deeply character-driven while it craftily lays out a powerful indictment on one hand and the generous magnitude of a man with five daughters of his own on the other. The story carefully paints the beauty of the time of year, the level of humanity exhibited by the townspeople in the spirit of the season, and juxtaposed the horrific conditions of the girls in the nunnery. It’s a heart-wrenching vision that tears at the emotions.
It’s a story that has you wondering where it’s going while it quietly lays out the backstory sufficient to give you the moral code engrained in Furlong. So perhaps the conclusion doesn’t come as a big surprise as much as the abrupt end to the tale. I guess you don’t really need a picture—you can fill the rest in—and each reader will do so in their own way.
A sweet little piece that has you reeled in only to realize after it ended how special it is.
Genre: Holiday Fiction, Small Town & Rural Fiction, British and Irish Literary Fiction
Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
Listening Length: 1 hr 57 mins
Narrator: Aidan Kelly
Publication Date: December 17, 2021
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Small Things Like These [Amazon]
Rosepoint Publishing: Four of Five Stars
The Author: CLAIRE KEEGAN was raised on a farm in Ireland. Her stories have won numerous awards and are translated into more than twenty languages. Antarctica won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and was chosen as a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year. Walk the Blue Fields won the Edge Hill Prize for the finest collection of stories published in the British Isles. Foster, after winning the Davy Byrnes Award—then the world’s richest prize for a story—was recently selected by The Times UK as one of the top 50 novels to be published in the 21st century. Her stories have been published in the New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, and Best American Stories. Keegan is now holding the Briena Staunton Fellowship at Pembroke College, Cambridge. [Amazon]
[Goodreads: Claire Keegan was born in Wexford in 1968. A member of Aosdána, she lives in Co. Wexford. Photo attribute]
© V Williams