EXCERPT: It would be the easiest thing in the world to lose everything, Furlong knew. Although he did not venture far, he got around – and many an unfortunate he’d seen around town and out on the country roads. The dole queues were getting longer and there were men out there who couldn’t pay their ESB bills, living in houses no warmer than bunkers, sleeping in their coats. Women, on the first Friday of every month, lined up at the post office wall with shopping bags, waiting to collect their children’s allowances. And farther out the country, he’d known cows to be left bawling to be milked because the man who had their care had upped, suddenly, and taken the boat to Fishguard. Once, a man from St Mullins got a lift into town to pay his bill, saying that they’d had to sell the car as they couldn’t get a wink of sleep knowing what was owing, that the bank was coming down on them. And early one morning, Furlong had seen a young schoolboy eating from a chip bag that had been thrown down on the street the night before.
ABOUT ‘SMALL THINGS LIKE THESE’: 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.
MY THOUGHTS: It is no small thing that coal and fuel merchant William (Bill) Furlong does. 1985 was a time of great hardship. Bill, although not wealthy, is doing all right for himself and is able to provide for his family – wife Eileen and his five daughters, through careful money management.
Bill Furlong has come from nothing, less than nothing really. But he and his mother were shown great kindness and that is something Billy is dwelling on this Christmas. When Billy discovers someone being treated cruelly and inhumanely, and discovers that his beloved Catholic church is covering it up, he faces a dilemma. Does he help, as his mother was helped? Or does he take heed of the warning and walk away?
For such a short book (128 pages), Small Things Like These packs a solid punch. While a work of fiction, the truth is that many thousands of girls and women were incarcerated and forced to work, hidden in disgrace behind church walls, never to be spoken of nor seen again. The children were adopted out, sold, or simply disappeared. Records were nonexistent or destroyed.
Small Things Like These is a powerful book about family, love, and trying to do the right thing. It is not a read that I am likely to forget in a hurry.
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T: @CKeeganFiction @GroveAtlantic
#fivestarread #christmasfiction #historicalfiction #irishfiction #novella
THE AUTHOR: Claire Keegan was born in County Wicklow, the youngest of a large family. She travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana when she was seventeen, and studied English and Political Science at Loyola University. She returned to Ireland in 1992 and lived for a year in Cardiff, Wales, where she undertook an MA in creative writing and taught undergraduates at the University of Wales.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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