The acclaimed Irish writer on writing short works, the Magdalene Laundries and her new hobby, horse training

For those who know and follow her work, a new Claire Keegan book is as rare and precious as a diamond in a coalmine. There have been just four of them over 22 years, and all are small, sharp and brilliant. Fortunately for an author so sparing with her output, those who know and follow her include an international array of literary connoisseurs, and many of the children passing through the Irish school system.

Eleven years have passed since her third published work – a standalone story, Foster – cemented her place as one of Ireland’s canonical writers, with a place on the leaving certificate syllabus. Foster is a gentle yarn about a small girl who is thrown upon the kindness of strangers while her mother gives birth to yet another baby. Her latest, Small Things Like These, is altogether darker and more ominous. It’s also longer, though pagination isn’t what separates the two. “To me,” says Keegan, “Foster isn’t a novel. It’s a long short story. And this is a novel, efficiently told. Unfortunately, this is often mistaken for what is condensed, and I have no time at all for what is condensed. I think something needs to be as long as it needs to be.

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