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Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan - Review

Thursday, January 18, 2024

I can't remember who told me to check out Claire Keegan but I noticed a few people reading her stuff last year so when my cousin asked me what to get me for Christmas I said this. I picked it up and read it very quickly as it's a novella, only about 120 pages. I really liked it and am glad I read it! I'll definitely read something else by the author because I liked the sparseness of her prose. 

The book is set in 1985 and it was honestly quite nice to be transported back to that time and to a Christmas in that time especially. The main character of the book is Bill Furlong. He is married to Eileen and they have five children, all girls, the eldest of whom is about fifteen I think. Bill owns a company that sells coal, anthracite, kindling etc. The book is set in Ireland and as I said it's set just before Christmas. Bill is getting ready to wind down for a break, stuff like that. At the beginning of December he and the family visit the switching on of the local lights and make the Christmas cake together, and the girls write their Christmas letters. Bill seems a little bit bored with life, a little bit fed up of the status quo, but nothing too serious. 

However, he visits the convent in the town, which also operates a Magdalene laundry. I'm quite familiar with their stories and the scandal surrounding them and the abhorrent things the Catholic church did in them, but I liked the way this went. It was really understated. I wasn't sure what I was expecting to happen, but I was pleasantly surprised. 

Bill himself grew up in the large house belonging to a Protestant woman. His mother was a servant there and was a single mother; in other words Bill knows that if his mother hadn't been given a break by the woman who owns the house, she may have ended up in a laundry herself. This experience massively impacts Bill still and it shows in what happens in the book. 

I'm giving this five out of five and will definitely read something else by Claire. I'm excited to see what else she has to offer!

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