First Impressions Spotlight: Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen

So it turns out that I noted my date incorrectly for this Algonquin tour and I didn’t bother to recheck it like I usually do because it’s been so busy… and I feel terrible about it! 😰 I have read 30% of the book though so this will be a “First Impressions” review but I will follow it up with a full review ASAP!

Thanks to Algonquin Books and NetGalley for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Big Girl, Small Town
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: 01 December 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Irish Literature

Majella is happiest out of the spotlight, away from her neighbors’ stares and the gossips of the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up during the Troubles. She lives a quiet life caring for her alcoholic mother, working in the local chip shop, and watching the regular customers come and go. She wears the same clothes each day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, microwaved at home after her shift ends), and binge-watches old DVDs of the same show (Dallas, best show on TV) from the comfort of her bed. But underneath Majella’s seemingly ordinary life are the facts that she doesn’t know where her father is and that every person in her town has been changed by the lingering divide between Protestants and Catholics. When Majella’s seemingly mundane existence is upended by the death of her granny, she comes to realize there may be more to life than the gossips of Aghybogey, the pub, and the chip shop. In fact, there just may be a whole big world outside her small town. 

Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.

I’ve made it to about 32% in the book and I started it last night when I realised that my tour date was actually today and not next week! 🙈 I read at a fairly decent speed, but this book has been so easy to read and if it continues on at this rate, I’m predicting that it’ll be (at least) a 4-star read for me! ALSO, I can’t not mention how hungry I get reading about Majella working at the chippie! Oh, what I would for some real chips doused in vinegar or with some brown sauce right now. Or even some cheesy chips. Ooh, could really do with that! 🤤

The story is written as it’s spoken and in that respect, the style reminds me a bit of Trainspotting (that’s the only book I can reference because I tried reading that and I was completely lost). Although this is less “stream of consciousness” compared to that, it admittedly still took some adjusting to get used to the dialect and use of local words! It’s definitely different but I think the style really suits Majella’s story! What also makes it an easy read is that it’s not written with traditional chapters. Each section is broken up into days, the time of day, and a note on something Majella isn’t keen on (and sometimes what she is keen on), which then ends up being the main topic of that section.

“Sometimes Majella thought that she should condense her whole list of things she wasn’t keen on into a single item: Other People”

From the moment I started reading, when we’re first introduced to Majella’s itemised list of things she’s not keen on, I already knew that I would like her! I can relate to many of her sentiments about people. 😂 Although nothing of note has happened yet, and we’re really following Majella’s daily routines and life in this small town, I find myself eager to come back to the book and read on whenever I have to put it down. Majella’s voice can be quite humorous (whether intentional or not) and I’ve had a few good laughs with how she frankly describes people and how they interact with each other. This is very much a character driven story, and I’m not sure if there’ll be much of a plot, but it’s still incredibly entertaining with Majella in the driver’s seat!

Lastly, I really don’t know much about Ireland’s history, specifically about the period surrounding The Troubles, so at times it does get confusing when Majella talks about her uncle and her da, the Protestants and Catholics using local terms, and the separation between the two in Aghybogey… But I’m slowly starting to understand more and get a clearer picture!

Overall, I’m very excited to continue reading Big Girl, Small Town because I find Majella’s voice unique and quite refreshing! The story is shaping up to be quite entertaining and I can’t imagine it any differently through Majella’s eyes!

A Sense of Place
I was born in County Tyrone in the mid 70s and grew up during the Troubles a few miles from the border between the ‘Free State’ and the ‘United Kingdom’. The border between these territories dominated all our lives. In the late 1960s, 19 roads criss-crossed Donegal and Tyrone in our local area. By the 1970s, just one ‘official’ road was left usable after the British Army blew up and barricaded the ‘unapproved’ roads and bridges. This campaign dramatically impacted communities on both sides of the border throughout my childhood and teens.

My work
Short stories were my first love. My debut, Big Girl Small Town, was shortlisted for the Comedy Women In Print award and an Irish Book Award. I‘ve had work published in Irish, UK and US anthologies and magazines (including Mslexia, The Stinging Fly, Cyphers, and QWF). I participated in the inaugural xBorders programme for emerging Irish Writers and I was a Novel Fair 2019 finalist.

Website | Instagram | Twitter

Have you read Big Girl, Small Town or is it on your TBR?

10 thoughts on “First Impressions Spotlight: Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen

  1. I have this arc, too, and I still haven’t read it. 🤦‍♀️ But it’s at the top of my stack. And now I’m even more excited about it knowing you’re enjoying it! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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