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.
Already an international bestseller, Small Things Like These is a deeply affecting story of hope, quiet heroism, and empathy from one of our most critically lauded and iconic writers.
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This was not a cozy, lighthearted read that I expected going into it. I quite like to mix up reads and dive into them not knowing much about them on occasion. This was certainly one of them. It’s a heavy, high-contrast outlook. Would recommend as a discussion piece for those who may or may not be familiar with the Magdalene asylums which housed women and young girls in Ireland for years as means of behavioral reformation under the service and guise of laundry laboring measures.
There is much complexity in the historical backdrop of both the underlying premise and story as depicted in the book.
A snippet of stories. Mix of impact.
I enjoyed reading about the connection to culture. The snacks and meals, gatherings, quiet and loud moments in life.
This is in high contrast to the darkness of the primary story.
Portrays society, the individual. Whether unbeknownst onlooker or perpetrator. Who holds guilt or shame. Who holds disregard. Who holds grace. Who paves the way for redemption.
With the main character taking a position, stronger stance, and control out of more or less than obvious circumstance. Yet dignified, celebrated, emotionally redeemed, and remedied much more quickly than ought. Which I felt to be a bit of an initial ease of integration, yet also an odd stranger to the story as it ends.
This type of story portrayal I think would be more fitting for a Hallmark channel Christmas movie or comic super hero episode than the more serious aspect of reflective literary style I expected as I read on. Even though the nature of the story can tell more about lasting impact and consequence of evil otherwise. Odd from this front. I think it’s because it almost felt like reducing complexities to singular point that was not as open-ended as I expected, nor as impactful given the circumstances as they unfolded in the end.
And I can’t say it’s due to length because Hans Christian Andersen, for example, for comparison purposes, captures reflective story structure in short tellings.
The voice was somewhat inconsistent at points. Sometimes felt purposeful, then forced, sometimes felt overlooked.
At times felt like there was no making of the mind. Whether it was to be modernized outlook and agenda toward the past or display of utter human depravity from moral standpoint. Without enough context and reference to form individual analysis that may have been better served if portrayed as less obvious. If reprobate or if characterization of collective society or singular, personal deep misleading, influence, and choice. Because that choice relied on one person, but was not a common, shared experience and outlook toward life, therefore sort of usurping the premise I thought it set out to tell.
I say that mostly from the standpoint where both internal and external critique of principles did not make for justice served aside from this open-ended literary take on a singular main character to carry such a nuanced glimpse and yet also at the same time, sort of ignore consequential heavy burden. What would typically be less transactional to society in whole, as in the book portrayed otherwise, to defeating purpose.
I also can’t tell if this was because of the high-contrast storylines as they intersect or maybe because, in addition, some lines felt a bit borrowed.
Verbiage and descriptions felt borrowed from multiple decades in comparison to the main timeframe and setting. Especially since manual labor in general was being phased out. The story didn’t capture this, which would have been important to note if overlooking the morality piece as imposed by the portrayal in the book. Outside of conscience and moral issue.
I enjoyed some of the writing style in quaintness and certain set up; however, though it not always be matching.
Sometimes borrowed lines in general.
And my goodness this line “…and he let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding…” Such a recurring distraction for me as reader nowadays.
I may read more from this author.
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