Magnificent storytelling, Booker Prize Shortlisted Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan is a novella which captures the ordinary, portraying the sad flip side of the travesty faced by them, courtesy of the savour-faire, the perfectionists, the institution which is ironically in charge of helping maintain the so-called ostentatious standards and which is in fact responsible for the abuse in all ways, at several junctures. Presented beautifully, the characters, the storyline, as well as each and every aspect of this 120-odd-page book, will not only warm the cockles of your heart with its setting and language but also compel you to look, think and muse beyond what actually happens.
Do you know the best thing I feel about any writing? Well, the ability of the Author to be able to rise above the story, getting beyond the skins of the characters they are depicting, giving deep, meaningful insight into their mental spaces and emotions, keeping you provoked all throughout. Be it the tempos, the modulations built, or the engaging world built, the point is simple-you need to be completely lost in their world, finding it tricky to be coming back to your own.
Right from the time, you’d say start, Claire Keegan’s latest titled Small Things Like These comes across as a one of its kind novella, which seemed to wow me at each instance and in a musing manner of sorts.
THE PLOT AS IT GOES
The main character Bill Furlong who is a coal, and timber merchant harbours a challenging past. A compromised lineage in the form of a teenage widowed single mother, he lives with his wife and 5 daughters. When during the Christmas season one day, he decides to go to a Catholic Magdalene laundry, a pompous institution of sorts where girls seem to be getting trained and educated simply to be able to gratify other’s egos, he chances encounters a girl Sarah wherein ensues the real conflict putting the synchronicity of the heart and the mind in a juxtaposition. Whether to be following his conscience or falling trapped to the preset societal norms, the rigmarole starts which forms the major crux of the plot.
WHAT I FELT
Well, to begin with, the novella begins and subsequently ends around the period of Christmas, which for me especially has always been a time of utmost special happiness. I cannot put it in words but there is this warm, fuzzy feeling I always feel, a shining radiance of sorts, emanating from within the depths of my heart whenever I read a book or a story in and around Christmas. Yes, the colour of the coal, the grey soot and pallor that seemed to radiate from characters as well as situations in this one, Claire has also managed to ensure the colours, the brilliance as well as that feeling of Christmas against all other odds.
Ever heard of the French term mise-en-scene’? Well, you could experience it first hand through this one as each and every character, each and every instance has been painted with a perspective of its own as well as that of the one who stands to be a part of it.
Snug and unyielding, each paragraph and every single line in this novella packs a plethora of information about the characters, the happenings, and every single aspect of this brilliant read.
Resonating and expressive, Claire’s writing is reminiscent of sheer brilliance. I am absolutely in awe of how the novella touches upon the sinful actions of those who were actually in charge of upholding the code of quintessential conduct and disposition and yet became barbaric and evil in spite of being in the name of God himself. To read about how the Magdalene Laundries became a place for captivity and confinement of those single mothers which were the output of a society which was evil and yet these places were beyond evil, appalling, if truth be told, gave me goosebumps. Shedding light on the Church Authority in Ireland, this exquisite piece of writing is a simile created in a manner where in contrast to a beautiful language, atrocities and the most loathsome acts of humanity are brought to light, right out in the open for all to brood upon and take note of.
No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted.Aesop
Yes, our protagonist who is an ordinary guy, having dealt with a harsh past in the form of an unwed mother and yet having been sheltered and imparted a kind treatment despite his illegitimate stature, does not fail when given a chance to redeem himself to extend similar kindness to those less fortunate than him. His selflessness, his vulnerability and his compassion, all made me admire him even more.
So, that is exactly my point yeah. Claire managed to create the character and make him the true larger-than-life icon, in a seemingly ordinary story, a usual set of sorts. It is a touching tale of ordinary life, barring the savoir-faire of that which seems to be perfect, bookmark this one, you guys for your next cosy read. A hot mug of coffee, your favourite corner and you are good to go.
So, hope you guys liked the book review of Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan I had to put forth.
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