Review: Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (2021)


Shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2022

The new novel from the internationally bestselling author of FosterAntarctica and Walk the Blue Fields.

It is 1985, in an Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, faces into his busiest season. As he does the rounds, he feels the past rising up to meet him – and encounters the complicit silences of a people controlled by the Church.

The long-awaited new work from the author of FosterSmall Things Like These is an unforgettable story of hope, quiet heroism and tenderness.


I was incredibly lucky to be sent the full shortlist for the fantastic Rathbones Folio Prize – huge thanks to Zara at FMcM Associates for my copy of Small Things Like These and the other wonderful books on the list, which is well worth checking out.

Some of the most powerful books I’ve read recently have been among the shortest. I think there is growing recognition that a novel doesn’t have to be a lengthy tome to pack a punch – a brilliant writer can do a lot within a few pages. Small Things Like These is, indeed, small, but it is a book that will linger long after you read the final page.

The writing reminded me of Carson McCullers’ beautiful classic The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter in the way it delves straight into the psyche of the protagonist, Furlong, and catches him mid-point, interacting with his family and community at a moment of internal shift. The story itself sheds light on the dark history of Ireland’s mother and baby homes, but it is Furlong who provides the novel’s centre. There is a wonderful sense of having dipped into his life for a time – a life that existed before we started reading and will continue after we close the book. That, to me, is the mark of a great piece of fiction.

Small Things Like These is a remarkable achievement. Tender but unsentimental, the book takes us on a short yet powerful journey, and it is not one that I will soon forget. I am very keen to read more by this author, and am grateful to have been introduced to her words.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan is published by Faber & Faber and is available to purchase here.


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