Book review: Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

small things like these claire keeganSmall Things Like These is just my kind of book, quietly powerful, beautifully told.

Bill Furlong is a coal merchant in a small Irish town in 1985. In the run up to Christmas, he goes about his work, observing the people in his community. There’s an economic crisis and he sees poverty. There are births, deaths, small joys and hidden sadnesses. Permeating it all is the power of the church.

With quiet compassion, Bill goes about his day, helping where he can, reflecting on the happy life he has with his wife and five children, despite a complicated childhood.

His wife, Eileen, is more pragmatic and hard-nosed than he is. In times of fear she looks to protect her own. And there are hints that all is not well for at least two of his five daughters.

Then Bill is confronted with a choice, a moral dilemma, one that throws into relief everything that has happened in his life. He takes action.

This is just the point where what appeared to be a rich, complex and substantial novel becomes interesting. Bill’s decision has implications for his family, for his community. I couldn’t wait to learn  how their lives are all changed by the ripple from this one small event.

Instead the book ends! I was so frustrated. I had to doublecheck I hadn’t been sent a sample by mistake.

I’ve got nothing against novellas. Some stories aren’t meant to be long. But this doesn’t have the feel of a novella. A novella is about one thing, it follows a straight path, and then it’s resolved. Small Things Like These seems to set up so many strands and then just let them fray.

So I don’t know what to say. I loved it. I’m furious about it. I feel as I would if I’d started a really great book, one I couldn’t wait to get back to, and then found I’d left it on a train. Whether that makes you more or less likely to read it is up to you.

I received a copy of Small Things Like These from the publisher via Netgalley.
View Small Things Like These on Goodreads

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