A tale of one man’s courage and a remarkable portrait of love and family.
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.
I often struggle with short stories and novellas. I find that little short-form writing satisfies me. I am often left asking questions or wondering what happens next. Are these texts kept short to make a succinct point? If that is the case, is the story worth no more than that singular point? And if this is true, how do you review such texts? Do you simply review the message of the text rather than the text itself?
Small Things Like These is a literary novella that has been longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize. It is the story of Bill, a small town Irish bastard who is feel unsettled during the 1985 Christmas season when he discovers something disturbing at the local convent.
If I were to rate Small Things Like These on message and vibes alone, I would give it 4.5 stars. However, I am going to review this novella like I review all other books – methodically.
I enjoyed Keegan’s writing once I adjusted to it. It was a bit of a throw back to classics, if you will. I will say that it evoked a time much before 1985 for me. I had to keep reminding myself that the prose’s tone and the actual setting did not quite align. I appreciated the fact that the writing was not super heavy on description as is so often the case with literary fiction; however, I would have liked a bit more depth to the descriptions that were present.
The plot is really where I struggle with short-form writing. I appreciated the plot that Small Things Like These included, but I wanted it to be further fleshed out. For a short piece, I thought it meandered a bit which I would have been all for had there been more time/space for the entire story. I could make an argument that the book ended at the climax and lacked any real resolution. I was left wanting to know what happened next and the repercussions of the protagonist’s actions.
Again, there was not a ton of space for character development within Small Things Like These. What character development was present was solid. I could understand Bill and his motivations. It is worth noting that the protagonist is a man when all the other characters were women.
Overall, I did enjoy Small Things Like These and would recommend it if you enjoy novellas and short stories. However, my stance remains that if you want to write something impactful and moving, it needs to be longer than 120 pages.
Small Things Like These
November 30, 2021
2022 Booker Prize Longlist