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Big Girl, Small Town

by Michelle Gallen

Debuts Family Drama Humour (fiction) Relationship Stories Sharing Diverse Voices

LoveReading View on Big Girl, Small Town

This is such a beautifully handled startling wow of a read, it has gone straight in to sit as a LoveReading Star Book. Spend a week with Majella as the routine of her life changes, she just wants to go to work, watch Dallas, and eat the same dinner each night. However… her mother is an alcoholic, her dad disappeared in the Troubles, and her gran has just died. The synopsis tells you that Majella is autistic, but this is her story, and she doesn’t know she is, so I met, I saw, I got to know Majella, as Majella. The extensive list of things she isn’t keen on are announced as the story progresses. The humour Michelle Gallen delivers is punchy, the swearing is particularly sweary, while the heartachy emotion wormed its way into my heart and squeezed. In fact Majella marched her way into my thoughts, she is one of the most wonderful characters I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and I’d go so far as to say that she is unforgettable. The repetition of her life, echoed through the book, adding emphasis to each new experience. The surrounding town and its folk slipped and exploded into play while the chip shop sits centre stage. Simple and raw yet richly complex, Big Girl, Small Town comes with huge applause and recommendations from me.

Liz Robinson

Big Girl, Small Town Synopsis

Routine makes Majella's world small but change is about to make it a whole lot bigger.

Stuff Majella knows

-God doesn't punish men with baldness for wearing ladies' knickers

-Banana-flavoured condoms taste the same as nutrition shakes

-Not everyone gets a volley of gunshots over their grave as they are being lowered into the ground

Stuff Majella doesn't know

-That she is autistic

-Why her ma drinks

-Where her da is

Other people find Majella odd. She keeps herself to herself, she doesn't like gossip and she isn't interested in knowing her neighbours' business. But suddenly everyone in the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up wants to know all about hers.

Since her da disappeared during the Troubles, Majella has tried to live a quiet life with her alcoholic mother. She works in the local chip shop (Monday-Saturday, Sunday off), wears the same clothes every day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, nuked in the microwave) and binge watches Dallas (the best show ever aired on TV) from the safety of her single bed. She has no friends and no boyfriend and Majella thinks things are better that way.

But Majella's safe and predictable existence is shattered when her grandmother dies and as much as she wants things to go back to normal, Majella comes to realise that maybe there is more to life. And it might just be that from tragedy comes Majella's one chance at escape.

Big Girl, Small Town Press Reviews

Majella is a compelling character caught in a fascinating slice of time, and her journey is exquisitely rendered. With echoes of Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine crossed with the 1990s-set British sitcom Derry Girls, this debut is recommended for fans of Ottessa Moshfegh, Emma Donoghue, and Sally Rooney - Library Journal (starred review)

Majella is a nuanced and complicated heroine, reliant on routines and largely dismissive of change. Infused with local diction, inflection, and slang, her voice envelops readers in the sounds of small-town Ireland - Booklist (starred review)

An irreverent portrait of small-town Northern Ireland that is both bleakly and uproariously funny - Kirkus

Sensational . . . Gallen's effortless immersion into a gritty, endlessly bittersweet world packs a dizzying punch - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Gallen's unrelenting eye for the bizarre and Coughlan's talent for deadpanning make it an absolute winner - Financial Times

Charming . . . there is an easy warmth to Big Girl, Small Town - Sunday Times

Gallen's debut deserves comparisons with Anna Burns' Milkman for its depiction of the impact of the Troubles on a vulnerable young woman but this terrifically imagined tender black comedy is very much its own book - Metro

Darkly funny - Mail on Sunday

Captivating . . . a confident debut with a very memorable protagonist in Majella - Irish Times

Superb - Irish Examiner

A winning evocation of a small Irish community whose people burst from its pages. Engaging and satisfying - Daily Mail

Northern Ireland is currently producing more exceptional writers per square inch than possibly anywhere else . . . Michelle Gallen will most certainly earn her place in the honours list. Big Girl, Small Town is even funnier than Derry Girls, while being just as fraught as Anna Burns's Booker Prize winner - Sunday Independent

It's the humour, dry and gritty, that sets Big Girl, Small Town apart . . . to think that this is Michelle Gallen's debut is astonishing, as Majella's narration is bold and assured . . . evocative, caustic and compelling - Sunday Business Post

What a voice: I felt as though I knew Majella intimately by the end . . . Big Girl, Small Town is a darkly hilarious novel about small-town life, which manages to be wildly entertaining despite being mostly set in a chip shop - a fine place in which to loiter with such a filthy, funny, clever companion - Guardian

I loved Majella from the first page . . . Utterly brilliant and deliciously hilarious! With humour, wit and beauty, Gallen subtly unveils a violence and conflict that lies beneath, exploring the legacy of the Troubles and the deeply felt effects through generations - Christy Lefteri

The funniest debut I've ever read - Claudia Carroll

Bawdy yet beautiful, full of everyday tragedy, absurdity and truth. I grew extraordinarily attached to Majella - Sara Baume

Milkman meets Derry Girls. A cracking read - Sinead Moriarty

A thrillingly fresh, provocative and touching voice - Marian Keyes

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Big Girl, Small Town

All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781529304220
Publication date: 18/02/2021
Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd an imprint of John Murray Press
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781529304206
Publication date: 20/02/2020
Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd an imprint of John Murray Press
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781529304220
Publication date: 18th February 2021
Author: Michelle Gallen
Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd an imprint of John Murray Press
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 320 pages
Genres: Debuts, Family Drama, Humour, Relationship Stories, Diverse Voices,
Collections: 80+ Humorous Novels - from Wry and Sly Observations to Outright Chuckles and Laughter.,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),

About Michelle Gallen

Michelle Gallen was born in Tyrone in the 1970s and grew up during the Troubles a few miles from the border. She studied English Literature at Trinity College Dublin and Publishing at Stirling University. She has had work published in the Stinging Fly, Mslexia and others and won the Orange/NW Short Story Award.

More About Michelle Gallen

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