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  • John Murray
  • John Murray

Big Girl, Small Town: Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award

Michelle Gallen

8 Reviews

Rated 0

Northern Ireland, Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)




LONGLISTED FOR THE ONDAATJE PRIZE 'Milkman meets Derry Girls. A cracking read' Sinead Moriarty

'A thrillingly fresh, provocative and touching voice' Marian Keyes 'Bawdy yet beautiful, full of everyday tragedy, absurdity and truth. I grew extraordinarily attached to Majella' Sara Baume

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.

'It's a smasher' Kathy Burke

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Praise for Big Girl, Small Town: Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award

  • A thrillingly fresh, provocative and touching voice - Marian Keyes

  • Milkman meets Derry Girls. A cracking read - Sinead Moriarty

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

  • [A] small masterpiece . . . Gallen's observations are brilliantly accurate, the dialogue and the experiences utterly authentic - Digital Fix

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

  • Gallen's descriptions and character traits are spot on and you can almost smell the chippy and feel the heat of the fryers as you head to work with Majella - Daily Record

  • Superb. A real insight into those, in the North, who, disinterested in politics, simply want a normal life - Irish Examiner

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

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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. Big Girl, Small Town was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, the Comedy Women in Print Prize and Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards.

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