Claire Keegan’s tender tale of hope and quiet heroism is both a celebration of compassion and a stern rebuke of the sins committed in the name of religion.

It is 1985, in an Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, faces his busiest season. As he does the rounds, he feels the past rising up to meet him - and encounters the complicit silences of a small community controlled by the Church.

Small Things Like These was longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize, announced on July 26, 2022. It was one of the six shortlisted books, announced on September 6.

The Booker Prize 2022
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Claire Keegan

Claire Keegan

About the Author

Claire Keegan was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2022. She is a novelist and short story writer, whose work has won numerous awards and been translated into 30 languages.
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What the Booker judges said about the book

‘Keegan is measured and merciless as she dissects the silent acquiescence of a 1980s Irish town in the Church’s cruel treatment of unmarried mothers - and the cost of one man’s moral courage.

‘It is the tale, simply told, of one ordinary middle-aged man - Bill Furlong - who in December 1985, in a small Irish town, slowly grasps the enormity of the local convent’s heartless treatment of unmarried mothers and their babies (one instance of what will soon be exposed as the scandal of the Magdalene laundries). We accompany Furlong, and we feel - and fear - for him as he realises what is happening, decides how he must in conscience act, and accepts what that action, in a small church-dominated town, will cost him, his wife and his children.

‘The book is not so much about the nature of evil as the circumstances that allow it. More than Furlong’s quiet heroism, it explores the silent, self-interested complicity of a whole community, which makes it possible for such cruelty to persist. It forces every reader to ask what they are doing about the injustices that we choose not to think about too closely. Astonishingly, Keegan achieves this without ever sounding angry or preachy.’

A story of quiet bravery, set in an Irish community in denial of its central secret. Beautiful, clear, economic writing and an elegant structure dense with moral themes.

— The 2022 judges on Small Things Like These