Reviews

Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan

nostradamusbuddy's review

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reflective fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? N/A
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

somethingarosie's review

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4.0

At just 128 pages, this short story packs a punch. The reader is dropped into the life of Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant. We are given the perfect amount of context to understand his story and the cultural setting in which this story takes place. Set in 1985 Ireland, this book deals with the complicit silence surrounding the Magdalene Laundries. It has an unmistakably Irish narrative style, with lots of colloquialisms and turns of phrase. The conversational tone makes for very easy reading, which I think is necessary in tackling such a  harrowing topic.

My only critique lies in the fact I wished it had been just a smidge longer. That is the nature of short stories, they are…short. However, I would have liked to know a little bit more about what happens to the characters in the end. Perhaps, the reaction of Furlong’s family? It just felt unfinished, ever so slightly.

That being said, this has been a deeply impactful read and my desire to know more is a testament to Claire Keegan’s writing. A captivating and poignant story.

Thank you NetGalley & Publishers Faber & Faber for my gifted copy.
#ADgifted 

redwrapped's review

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dark reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

 Bill Furlong is one of the best men in fiction I have read lately, because he is not seeking power, or authority, or trying to sweep away what he does not want to see or accept. He is proud of his daughters and values his wife. He works hard to support them, but questions whether it is enough. He is, essentially, just a decent, hardworking man who has been forming resentment over the state of his town and the financial trouble most people had fallen into. A couple of days before Christmas 1985, he is confronted by the truth when he discovers an abused girl that has run away from the local Magdalene Laundry and brings her back, forcing him to reckon with his own morality and how easily she could be his mother or his daughters.

This is a slow-burning but trim novella, but it packs quite the punch between the historical context and the questions of morality and the inheritance of generational stigma and trauma. 

nicolegadras's review

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reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

tamtastic27's review

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emotional hopeful medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.0

durrenmatt's review

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4.0

I think the term 'little gem' was invented for books like this.

It is a sweet but dark Christmas tale of a good man in a small and cold Irish town in the 1980s.

You can read it in an evening, preferably in December, and you'll have a beautiful evening!

Thanks to Grove Atlantic for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

oh2mdreader's review against another edition

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4.0

"...was there any point in being alive without helping one another? Was it possible to carry on along through all the years, the decades, through an entire life, without once being brave enough to go against what was there and yet call yourself a christian, and face yourself in the mirror?"
I enjoyed this beautifully written short book. I'm not sure how to accurately describe it, but somehow the writing felt calm and peaceful. I had to keep reminding myself it was the 1980s. It seemed like it could have been 50 or 100 years earlier. It was a lovely book.
Thanks to NetGalley for an early copy.

marywahlmeierbracciano's review against another edition

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challenging reflective medium-paced
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

Irish master of short stories Claire Keegan delivers a pocket-sized novel in a richly drawn village of secrets and the status quo.  It’s 1985 and Christmas is nearing.  Bill Furlong’s coal and firewood business is busy as ever, but on an early delivery to a laundry run by nuns, he comes across an unholy sight.  Furlong is no Scrooge—a good man is he—but recognition of his privilege, complicity, and hypocrisy sets him on a journey of self-discovery not unlike that of A Christmas Carol.  Furlong’s recognition of the worth of those around him, and of himself, will warm your heart and open your eyes. 

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kateflood's review

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5.0

This novella is an incredibly powerful exploration of the horrifying truth of the Magdalene Laundries of Ireland. Set in a small Irish town in the 1980s, we are given the perspective of Bill Furlong, and the story revolves around not only his moral dilemma regarding the Laundry, but also his feelings towards his family, his upbringing and the townspeople.

This story felt so real, and the simple prose made it no less captivating. It examines the themes of morality, family, and religion beautifully. The sense of how powerful the church is within this small community is painfully evident, even though it is barely ever noted explicitly, and I think this demonstrates a strength of Keegan’s writing: she communicates so much by saying so little. I thought that centring the story on Bill as opposed to the Laundry allowed an exploration of the perspective of bystanders, a key factor in how the Laundries were allowed to continue for such a horrifically long time.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for letting me read an e-copy in exchange for an honest review.

drexedit's review

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emotional hopeful reflective sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? N/A
  • Diverse cast of characters? N/A
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

5.0

Thank you to GroveAtlantic for this opportunity to review the #ARC. 

Small Things Like These is set in Ireland in the mid-1980s recession as we follow Bill Furlong through several days approaching Christmas. As the holiday season approaches, Bill reflects on his life, both present and past. Bill's life is pretty ordinary, except when you look closely and really notice things; it's the small things that matter.

I love Claire Keegan's writing. Her details paint a picture and engage our emotions and senses. As in this scene where Bill reflects on scenes from his current Christmas which leads to remembering past Christmases:
"Again, he found himself thinking back to his time out at Wilson's, and reasoned that he'd just had too much time to dwell and had turned sentimental because of all the coloured lights and the music, and the sight of Joan singing with the choir, how she looked like she belonged there, with all the others -- and the scent of the lemon which took him back to his mother at Christmastime in the fine, old kitchen; how she used to put what was left of the lemon into one of the blue jugs with sugar to steep and dissolve overnight and had made cloudy lemonade."

The book is dedicated to the women and children who suffered in Ireland's Magdalen laundries. The subject matter makes this a difficult Christmas story to read, but it is ultimately a heartwarming and hopeful story. Because you can change someone's life for the better. It only takes a small thing.