When it comes to the children of unwed mothers, Ireland has dirty hands. Between 1922 and 1998, an estimated 9,000 children died in 18 households run by the state and the church, or 15% of the population. Prime Minister Michael Martin has apologized to the Irish people following the recent publication of a 3,000-page report collecting testimonials from 550 residents of these laundries in Madeleine.
Inspired by these horror stories, Claire Keegan (Through the blue fields, 2012) Book Little things like this, A half-hearted social novel in which Bill Furlong, born in 1947 to a 16-year-old mother, is a slave to a good Protestant widow who kept wood and charcoal under her wings, and an unknown father.
On the eve of his forties, Farlong leads an exemplary and frugal life with his wife, Eileen, and their five daughters: “
A few days before Christmas, Furlong finds out what the Good Shepherd sisters are hiding in their laundry. Since then, he has not been the same, and wants to change the course of things, “even if he wants his normal part to get rid of and get back out of this story”. He was even able to repel religion: “When it was time to accept fellowship, he withdrew from the attitude of contradiction where he was and went back to the wall”.
With a remarkable economy of words, Claire Keegan creates an oppressive atmosphere, elevating the power of religious communities over ordinary people and the economic hardship of Ireland in the 1980s, when young people fled to London in hopes of a better life. On every page you will feel the extreme cold of winter and the smoke of coal. Sometimes you think you’re one of Joyce’s Dubliners and sometimes you’re one of Dickens’ orphans. The result is a novel, and its apparent simplicity reveals immeasurable human drama.