SMALL THINGS LIKE THESE
BY CLAIRE KEEGAN
‘Small Things Like These’ is an alternative winter novella by the acclaimed short story writer, Claire Keegan. Set in a small town in Ireland during the ‘80s the novel presents a slice of social history in which the festive season is interrupted by the dark and chilling secrets of the lesser known Magdalene Laundries. Short listed for the Booker Prize (2022) this is a story that thrives on tension, leaving the reader wanting to know more about the operations of these secret institutions.
In the story, it’s 1985 and Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant is facing his busiest season delivering fuel to the community whilst snatching time with his young family of five girls. There is festive excitement in the air, present lists to be written and a general sense of busyness and countdown to the holidays. Whilst Furlong is doing his rounds he unwittingly discovers a dark secret held at the local convent. As the protagonist begins to realise the truth of his encounter in the high-walled convent premises we the reader peak into this world wondering what we might do. As a hard-working father to a young family, money is tight but equally the cry for help from the young girl is prickling his conscience.
This shameful story of young 'fallen women' who were incarcerated into homes - disappearing from public life provides an uncomfortable narrative. Set against the warmth of family and local life, the reader discovers how the church and its communities were complicit, hiding the secret institutions that were kept under wraps for many decades. The reader is also privy to Furlong’s own back story and the life that he was saved from - a secret that his own friends and family hint at to him.
The Den found the story hit many nerves in their own lives providing a great novella for discussion in book club. Definitely inspired the Den not to shy away from the novella format - not only because it is gives everyone the chance to complete the read in good time for book club. Now available in paperback.