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Small Things Like These

Updated: Jul 7

by Claire Keegan first published in 2021 by Faber & Faber Ltd

This book is a short novel set in 1985 in an Irish town.


It is about how an ordinary but kind timber and coal merchant in a small rural town in Ireland gradually realises the truth about a local mother and baby home run by Catholic nuns. In his daily work making deliveries he witnesses cruel mistreatment of a young unmarried mother and decides to do something about it.


The local community turns a blind eye to the sufferings of the young vulnerable women and their babies detained there in their midst. They know and yet they don’t know what was happening there. Later it was discovered that many babies either died or were adopted out against their mothers’ wishes in Magdalen laundries.


The book is written in a beautiful, subtle and gentle style. The point of view of the book is expressed by the main character Bill Furlong, a married father of 5 daughters and himself the son of a single mother. His basic decency and humanity shines through.


The other main character was Eileen his wife who espoused some of the common prejudices about the troubled women and felt relieved her own daughters were safe. Both characters were very real and likeable. The father Bill was especially compelling. I enjoyed the book a lot. I felt admiration for Bill’s final brave actions.


I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Irish history of the Catholic Church.


By Monica - April 2024.



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