Factory girls A novel

Michelle Gallen, 1975-

Book - 2022

"A darkly comic novel about three friends working in a shirt factory in Northern Ireland while they plot their escape from their provincial families and the simmering violence of the Troubles"--

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Historical fiction
Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 2022.
Main Author
Michelle Gallen, 1975- (author)
First Edition
Item Description
"First published in Great Britain in 2022 by John Murray (Publishers), A Hachette UK company."--Title page verso.
Physical Description
294 pages ; 21 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Maeve is spending the long, boring summer between school and adulthood in her small, northern Irish hometown. Accompanying her are best friends Caroline, of a similar, council-house background, and middle-class Aoife, as well as the ghost of her sister Deirdre, who committed suicide some years ago at a similar stage in her life. The girls have three things circling their minds: money, independence, and (hopefully) enrolling in university in the fall. Before that, they must survive working in the local shirt factory for lecherous Brit Andy Strawbridge, who sees the town's easily exploited workforce as his ticket to big money and a steady stream of impressionable, young Irish girls. Gallen fluidly juxtaposes the pedestrian worries of small-town life against the Troubles of the mid-1990s, as Maeve's journalistic mind seeks answers to the mysteries of the factory's funders while she's struggling with a crush on Aoife's brother, who would just bring her more of what she loathes about home. Protection payments, loyalist marches, clashes between the mixed factory workforce, and more culminate in an explosive denouement in which Maeve must confront her conflicting feelings about home and the potential of an unknown future. For fans of Derry Girls and the plucky heroines of Marian Keyes.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Irish writer Gallen (Big Girl, Small Town) offers a sharp chronicle of the coming-of-age of three Catholic teenage girls during the waning days of the Troubles. In the summer of 1994, acerbic Maeve Murray, fancy Aoife O'Neill, and timid Caroline Jackson all take jobs at the shirt factory in their tiny Northern Ireland town while they await their A-level results. Maeve, desperate to get away from the painful memory of her older sister's suicide, rents an apartment with Caroline and daydreams of her escape to journalism school in London while ironing piles of shirts and grappling with her sexual attraction to her shifty British manager, who doesn't return her advances but boosts her wages and has a reputation for sleeping with employees. Aoife, who has her sights on Cambridge, also works an iron but finagles her way into training for a higher-skilled position, while Caroline winds up having to manage her expectations. The three develop a camaraderie as they deal with the disdain and cruelty of their Protestant coworkers and try to figure out their futures. Gallen offers piercing snapshots of the characters' everyday lives amid steady bursts of sectarian violence, such as Maeve's mother getting discounts on shoes after the store's glass is shattered by a bomb. This is lovely. Agent: Marianne Gunn, O'Conor Creative. (Nov.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Gallen's (Big Girl, Small Town) latest follows 18-year-old Maeve Murray, caught in the limbo of her small Northern Irish town as she works in a shirt-making factory and waits for news of her exam results. Set in 1994 during the last days of the Troubles, the story highlights the ever-present tension between the Catholics and the Protestants as they struggle to make ends meet amid the constant threat of violence. Narrator Amy Molloy channels the grittiness of the hard-scrabble town, the weight of Maeve's worries, and the simmering frustrations of factory workers who are asked to do more and more, although they are only given the paltriest of incentives. Molloy adds delightful touches throughout--self-satisfied grunts, sniffs of disapproval, and snorts of laughter. Her command of Irish slang feels perfect, bringing out Maeve's no-nonsense approach and knack for deadpan humor. There are laugh-aloud moments, such as Gallen's stomach-turning description of Maeve's mother's pasta ("a sticky pile of porridge-coloured worms"), beautifully balanced with poignant moments that capture the terror of living during this time. VERDICT A testament to the strength and resilience of a teen on the cusp of adulthood. Fans of Derry Girls will love it.--Sarah Hashimoto

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A teenage girl comes of age working at a factory during the last days of the Troubles. Maeve Murray has one goal in the summer of 1994: to get out of her small town in Northern Ireland and escape to London for university. But she won't know whether that's possible until she gets her exam results, and in the meantime, she and her two closest friends, Caroline Jackson and Aoife O'Neill, decide to earn money working at the local shirt-making factory. The factory, which is managed by smarmy, handsy, and distressingly handsome Englishman Andy Strawbridge, is a rare space where Catholics and Protestants are forced to coexist despite the constant threat of sectarian violence. For one summer, everything in Maeve's life is on the brink of change: her education, her relationships with friends and family, and even the factory, a precarious social experiment vulnerable to both sectarian strife and "optimisation" that could crush workers from both factions. Gallen, who grew up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, reconstructs this era vividly. Her characters speak in dialect, but, more importantly, their understanding of the world is shaped by their experience of the Troubles. Maeve wishes to escape the sectarian environment in which she's been raised while also viewing Protestants with suspicion, confusion, and, at times, lust. Gallen's mastery of her protagonist's psychology renders this muddle comprehensible, sympathetic, and, above all, funny. Truly humorous novels are hard to come by, but Gallen's writing is full of genuine bite. Maeve shares her creator's wit and insight: "[Tony] Blair looked like the sort of toothy creature you'd see in a Free Presbyterian church," she reflects, "a man who believed way too hard in the wrong thing." A sensationally entertaining novel that's deeper than it first appears. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.