Twenty Great Books set in APARTMENT BLOCKS
Short novel set in County Wexford, Ireland
9th January 2023
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan, short novel set in County Wexford, Ireland.
Booker Prize shortlisted, 2022.
Small Things Like These is set in the run up to Christmas 1985, in the fictional town of New Ross, County Wexford. It is a harsh Winter and many people are struggling as the snow descends and the ice forms. Furlong runs a coal company and therefore is in high demand as the temperatures plummet. Not all his clients can pay but he has a kind heart as he revs up the engine on his old delivery truck.
One of his customers is the local convent where he happens upon a young woman locked in an outhouse. The memory of her plight stays with him, as she is cold, bare-footed and in real need of succour, which clearly is not available where it appears she is incarcerated – all the locking of doors and gates makes him feel uneasy. This, of course, is one of the Magdalen Laundries, where young women, who bear children out of wedlock are sent to atone for their sins, a huge scandal within the Catholic Church. The last laundry closed its doors in 1996, just 25 years ago.
Small Things Like These is crafted by a gifted writer and storyteller. It quietly and unassumingly lays out the iniquitous and cruel practices that were hidden behind the walls of the devout, where institutionalised cruelty was the norm, as seen through the gentle eyes of family-man Furlong, who, himself has a brood of daughters to care for. There is detail and observation that makes this a good and thought provoking read.
I was slightly taken aback that the book is just over 100 pages in length, and therefore a quick read. It is less than 2 hours as an audiobook. It is the short nature of the book that makes it a punchy read, although there is a lingering desire to find out more about Furlong and his life, and drill down further into this community of which we actually know so little.
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I’m not sure I would be completely satisfied with this as a short story, as like yourself, I fear too many unanswered questions. However, I am intrigued enough to add it to my ‘wish list’ 🙂