Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan (Faber 2021)

Neil's picture

This is the shortest novel (116 pages) to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and it would have been a worthy winner. It's difficult to say too much about this book without giving away the story, but it's set in 1985, in an Irish town just at Christmas, and quietly tells of Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant who makes a choice which will resonate for the rest of his life. The fact that the book ends at the point of this choice, rather than telling of the rest of what the reader knows is inevitable, is where its impact lies. It's hugely resonant, and will leave the reader moved and thinking about it long after it's finished. It's so simply and plainly written, and is ultimately a story of kindness, sacrifice, and moral strength.