Big Girl, Small Town

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Member Reviews

Hailed as another Elizabeth Oliphant but I found Majella a difficult person to empathise with.
For me it was difficult read, I could not find the humour in it  and I struggled to get to the end.
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I tried hard to like this book, far harder than I usually do. The reviews were Good,so I thought I just needed to get into it.
I got into 50%of it,then gave up... I found it dull,repetative and a little depressing. It's probably supposed to be. Same old same old.
But I found no humour... and so I gave up.
Not for me.
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I love this book and I love Majella. A ribald, funny, earthy story of a young woman in a part of Ireland still scarred by the Troubles, trying to deal with her alcoholic mother and avoid all the (many) things that annoy and upset her on a day-to-day basis. Majella's personality and struggles are beautifully portrayed - she may have OCD or be on the autistic spectrum, but this is never related lazily (her feelings, likes and dislikes are very specific) or in a way that is meant to make us feel sorry for our strong and adorable heroine in the way that so many books do these days, it's just part of who she is.  My only problem was it finished too soon!
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Think Eleanor Oliphant in small-town Northern Ireland and you'll be some way already to understanding Gallen's debut novel.

     Only child Majella likes routine, predictability, Dallas and, is happiest in, her own company. But her father has disappeared in the 'Troubles' and her mother is rarely sober-either from the whiskey she consumes by the bottle or, failing that and when the opportunity arises, is "drunk on the attention of others."
     So, Majella relies on her working week at 'Salt and Battered' to provide her with a structure that soothes, as well as manageable, predictable interactions with every member of the town when they arrive to collect their regular take-away meals.
     Here we meet a motley crew, many of whom I would have been happy for Gallen to follow home and donate chapters of the book to: she paints them with such ingenuity, empathy and humour. Quickly, I felt myself developing a real fondness for their small community and, at times, laughed with delight at Majella's matter-of-fact, no silver-linings, experiences amongst them. For example, "She'd been told she had big hands for a girl by Dermie McDaid, whose real problem was he'd a tiny cock for a full-grown fella."

     Evidently, so that Majella's life can move forward, something needs to change and it is the unexpected death of her grandmother which propels her uncomfortably into the spotlight in more ways than one.

     Charming, funny and woven with an elaborate simplicity that glitters amongst the fabric of the tale, 'Big Girl, Small Town' is a satisfying read; certain of success.
    
     My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for sharing an advanced copy with me in return for my honest opinion.
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I really enjoyed this book. It's great to see some women writers coming through from Norn Iron. I loved the use of the Northern Irish venacular . It really helped me envisage Majella (the protagonist) and the small town life she was living in a border town.  I could hear her speaking in my head. 
Majella, (Jelly belly) is overweight and although she passed the 11+ and is intelligent, she spends her life hiding her "light under a bushel". She went to the local secondary school , leaving at sixteen and spends her life sleeping  all day and working long late night shifts at the local chippy avoiding interaction as much as possible with other people. She lives with her alcoholic mother in a grubby house and the family seems incapable of moving on from the disappearance of her father who was a Republican sympathiser. The narrative follows the daily grind of Majella's life. Her only pleasures seem to be watching DVD's of Dallas, her Sunday night "pints", the odd "ride" (shag) from any willing bloke and her free take home "supper" from the chip "shap" where she works and which is darkly but humourously called "A Salt and Battered." We get flashbacks of her life when her father was around, her relationship with her Granny who has been murdered as the book opens, an insight into the origins of her mother's alcoholism and a wry description of  Majella's nightly shifts at work and the various characters who frequent the chippy. It is all really well drawn. "Dead on." Loved it.
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This is a brilliant coming of age story about a girl in her late teens who doesn't quite know what she wants to do. Set on a housing estate in Northern Ireland, its an unflinching look at a working class family and expectations for a woman from that sort of background. It's brilliantly written and hilarious throughout and definitely something a bit different from anything else I've read- would definitely recommend.
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I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review 

Kitchen sink realism done bleak but done right. You come to like these people despite themselves, and I will miss them. Look forward to reading more from this other
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Big Girl, Small Town is the story of Majella, a woman with a predictable life that other people find odd, and how a family death shakes up her routine. Majella lives with her alcoholic mother in the same small town in Northern Ireland that she's always lived in. She works in the chip shop, doesn't like small talk, and knows her daily routine. Other people seem to think her grandmother's recent death should have more of an impact on her, but Majella doesn't see any change in her life, until it turns out her grandmother had a will nobody knew about.

The novel covers a week in Majella's life, the minute details and the long list of things she dislikes, and uses timestamps and dialect to give a real picture of her reality. The Northern Ireland setting—from her father's disappearance during the Troubles to the language used in the book—is vital to the novel and gives an insight into the very real kind of world that is fictionalised in the novel. The narrative isn't so much about major plot points happening as how events have a day to day impact and even big things can become part of the everyday. 

This is a novel that may sound like a lot of books centred around an unusual protagonist whose everyday routine is thrown off, but the setting and facts of Majella's life make it something different, and a look at being classed odd in a town that has a kind of 'normal' that a lot of people would think is odd in itself. Majella is a memorable character who will likely stick with readers after the final pages.
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Thank you to NetGalley and John Murray for an early copy of this book. 

Having family from the Northern Ireland I am always so happy to read a book set there (or anywhere outside of London to be honest!) and using the local dialect added a lovely dimension to this piece. If you are concerned about this element, please give it a go and perhaps start by reading aloud to yourself and then you will get the pacing right and find yourself swept up in it. 

Majella is a gloriously odd character, Gallen has managed to capture her personality and eccentricities beautifully and I enjoyed reading about her life and challenges. 

4/5
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I really loved this book. I loved that it was set in the North and all the complexities that such a place adds to the story. I also fell in love with the main character Majella. She is the kind of character that you are willing on to succeed with every page turn. The story was sweet and sad, but certainly gave you a sense of hope. I can't wait to read more by Michelle Gallen!
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A young woman Majella lives with her mom in a small town works at the local fish fry place. Same routine everyday but ther is something about her that drew me  in her awkward way she is a wonderful character quirky weird real.I loved her ,her thoughts feelings behavior a truly wonderful novel that I will be recommending. #netgalley#johnmurray.
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Majella is navigating the tricky landscape of finding her way as a young person in a small town and the judgements that come with that. She is likeable and realistic, overall this book is a great read. The style of writing and local dialect took me a little while to get into but it’s worth persevering with!
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