Small Things Like These, an aptly named, delightful cameo of literary fiction, tells the story of one man’s conflict - whether to stand up for what he believes is right and good - or go along with the social acceptance and passivity of his community against a known evil. It is the story of everyman. In this case, it is a story of Ireland and its conflicted relationship with the Catholic Church. Set in 1985, in New Ross an Irish rural town, the protagonist Bill Furlong, a coal merchant is doing his rounds coming up to Christmas. A disturbing encounter at the local convent leads him to question the intentions of the nuns and the complicit acceptance of the townspeople towards their actions.
This beautifully written and crafted novel tackles big issues, yet they are handled by Keegan in a gentle and deft manner that will leave the reader thinking about this book long after they finish reading it. In a world where superlatives often inflate the run of the mill, this work deserves the description already applied of a ‘masterpiece’.