Big Girl, Small Town

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: Not set

Member Reviews

I find hard to review this book because I loved it and it's not easy to put into words the emotions and how great this story is.
It's not an easy read, at the beginning you have to go through all the routines and discover small pieces that makes Majella's life.
It's not a glamorous or exciting life but after a bit I started feeling affection for this weird and great characters.
It's a story that ask you to be patient and you will be rewarded because it's one the best I read in a long time.
Please read it, it's strongly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Set in Ireland.  In this book we follow Majella just after the murder of her gran. Majella works in the local chip shop. We follow Majella's daily grind and see the world through her eyes. Majella has no real friends, even though she knows lots of people. She is also on the autistic spectrum. Her father is missing and her mother is an alcoholic. 

The story is told from Majella's point of view. It's told over one week in  November. She's quite a funny and interesting character. Majella is naive. We learn a little of what it was like to live in a small town near the  orders to Southern Ireland during the troubles. Theres  ot a lot goes on in this story but there is something there that keeps you reading.

I would like to thank Netgalley,  John Murray Press and the author Michelle Gallon for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
The new Elizabeth Oliphant set in Northern Ireland. Majella a character who favors routine and is probably on the autistic spectrum is entertaining and difficult.at the same time. It takes time to warm to her so persevere. Hoping there will be a sequel.
Was this review helpful?
Marjella as a character is an absolute star in this, her daily life as a woman with ASD living in Northern Ireland and having grown up through The Troubles was fascinating. The humour was spot on, whether it’s the repetitive conversation with the regulars in the chippy where she works (painfully similar to when I worked in the social club) or reminiscing with old friends, missing being pulled over by British soldiers and held at gunpoint because that was when craic was at its best.
I definitely get the comparisons to Eleanor Oliphant, in terms of dealing with trauma although it was delivered in a different way.
At times when I stopped reading I constantly felt like I was just waiting for something to happen, but the writing was strong enough that I didn’t really mind and just enjoyed the reading experience
Was this review helpful?
This novel describes the life of Majella, whose life is predictable and safe until it gets shaken upside down. Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, when her father was supposedly murdered, Majella has to navigate life after losing her grandmother. It's entertaining and engrossing.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book. I laughed my way through it. Majella’s view of life is compelling reading. I felt so sorry for her. She has lost her dad and her gran and is trying to look after her alcoholic mum as well as work in her local fish and chip shop. I thought the way that the book was written was brilliant. It added to the story and immersed me further into Majella’s world.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
Was this review helpful?
I really struggled to get into this book and it ended up being a disappointment.

The plot felt very slow – almost to the point of being non-existent. There are lots of topics brought up (i.e. missing father, missing grandmother) that could have been easily used to create a far more exciting plot, but alas, no.
I found certain scenes to be completely unnecessary (especially the one with the kittens?!) and they added very little. These sort of scenes felt like they have been added in purely for shock factor.

Overall it really wasn’t for me sadly but it did have me craving chips for the whole thing!

Many thanks to the author, publisher and Netgalley for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
An enjoyable read- your taken on the journey of a young lady who lives near the Irish border. The book flows well. It’s well written.
Great read.
Thank you to both NetGalley and publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book
Was this review helpful?
This was a really interesting novel that focused on a young woman living near the border in Ireland. The way it switched between past and present was interesting and I thought it was generally clear when the action was happening. The character was well fleshed out and made for some interesting scenes. I thought that with the blurb mentioning autism and where her father is that it would be mentioned more and the readers would be given a diffintive outcome to both of them points but they weren't really given a proper conclusion. The ending was open-ended which gave it kind of a hopeful feeling.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed the book, enjoyed reading Marjella story. Pretty easy read and I found I could put it down and pick back up at any time, characters were good a real to life. 
Enjoyed the story
Was this review helpful?
I very much enjoyed this slice of life for a twenty-something girl living in a fairly unremarkable town in Northern Ireland.

Whilst it was a story with quite a simple storyline with no particular shocks or surprises, it nevertheless was a book which I was invested in and I found it very entertaining. The language was perfect to portray Majella's character and her ineractions with the locals.

I hope to read more by Michelle Gallen.
Was this review helpful?
Now, any book that frames itself as “Milkman meets Derry Girls” is always going to pique my interest. After all, we know I loved Milkman – that fabulous Anna Burns prize-winner about an awkward young woman’s coming of age in war torn Northern Ireland – and who the hell doesn’t love Derry Girls, that exquisite sitcom about schoolgirls growing up in Derry, Northern Ireland, in the 1990s.

So, how does this debut from Michelle match up to that great expectation?? You know what, pretty damn well.
Not that you’d think that from the first 100 pages, mind, as the first half of this book is hard going, in that it is tough to find an in here, difficult to discern a narrative drive or plot. 

We are in the hands of Majella, a profoundly introverted young woman whose life is defined by predictable routine – her care responsibilities at home for her alcoholic, pill-popping mother and her six days a week job at the fish & chop shop, Salt & battered! 

At first glance, nothing else seems to impact this bubble – the Prods and the Catholics get into fights around her, the British are loathed, and poverty and hopelessness is implicit and endemic. Yet all of Majella’s focus is on her routine. For pages and pages, we are following her getting to work, wiggling herself into her uniform (a  little tight), casual sex with the boss (he’s married), coming home late with her fish supper (eaten alone), all whilst avoiding any in-depth communication with her mother.

It is these pages that have broken my readers; you will see on Goodreads quite a few ‘did not finish’ and complaints about boredom. And you do wonder what the hell this is all for. But then, as you concentrate, tiny fragments of information burst through the monotony – Majella’s father is missing, part of Disappeared, her uncle dies in a bomb explosion, and her Granny was murdered at home. Majella doesn’t seem to focus on these parts of her life so their sudden arrival – and equally quick dismissal – deliberately jar in the cleverest of ways. 
Majella is ignoring this information because she is focused wholly on her routine – a reflection that, much like Milkman, this protagonist may be on the autistic spectrum. But these seemingly peripheral events are going to change her life forever. And the steady (then sudden) fallout from all of this is what shapes and makes for a terrific second half.

Yet, as I reflected on the book, re-reading parts of the first half, I realised that there was so much more craft here than I had appreciated the first time I read through. Take for example, all the chapter intros that extract a number from Majella’s well-maintained lists of things she likes and things she doesn’t…

“5.55pm. Item 3: Pain: Other people’s pain.” Then you will read that following section and it may slip your mind that this is Majella’s focus; in fact, you’re not sure if another person’s pain is referred to. But then you read it again – carefully – and that scene changes. There is pain there; not on the surface, not obvious, but it is there. And suddenly this book reveals a rich world of hidden depths to this community and its characters that could so easily be overlooked. A hugely rewarding read and a world that I am so keen to return to again as soon as I can.
Was this review helpful?
Unfortunately I didn't connect with this book at all. It started off quite promising but is far too slow paced to hold attention. Added to that is the very strong dialect which it is written in that seemed to slow it down even further. A real shame as I was looking forward to this book.
Was this review helpful?
This is a lovely, down to earth, story of Majella and her alcoholic mother who live in a small town in Belfast. Majella talks about her life and those she comes in contact with from her experience of working in the local chip shop. Her father, missing for 16 years, her uncle blown up and then her beloved granny is murdered. How does Majella deal with her problems.
Was this review helpful?
I found this book very difficult to read or get into. The plot is very, very slow and the entire book is also written in dialect which means I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the sentence said rather than getting into the story. I wouldn't recommend it. There's much, much better books out there showing "regional" (ie non-london) life!
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed Big Girl Small Town and have found myself thinking about the book, Majella and the fictional yet so realistic town she lives in.  

One endorsement I read described the book as beautifully ‘bawdy’, and there’s definitely plenty of fairly explicit humour and content.  This didn’t detract from the heartbreaking depiction of Majella’s life; the extent to which she’s frozen and trapped in a small rural, post-Troubles border town.  It was also described as Derry Girls meets The Milkman which was a helpful comparison, but while I love Derry Girls I really didn’t enjoy the Milkman, so was pleasant surprised by how much I enjoyed this.  

I did feel it ended a little abruptly and overall there were several narrative threads which weren’t finished.  The writing and characterisation drove the book and kept me reading, but the plot could have been stronger.
Was this review helpful?
Received this book for free via NetGalley and thank goodness for that as I would have been really disappointed if I'd actuall parted with any money to read this. 

It's very rare that I start a book and give up but this book so nearly achieved that for me. 

It meandered, repeated and whilst an Irish small town life (or any small town life) might be exactly that, it doesn't make for a good read to keep telling the reader all about it.

The most excitement in the whole book was when the lead character buys a new duvet!!

What I found so frustrating is there were a couple of totally unexplored potential plot lines that could have made this significantly more interesting.

Unfortunately I can't recommend this for any reasons.
Was this review helpful?
I can only describe this Book as Derry Girls meets Eleanor Oliphant. I absolutely love Derry Girls and felt Eleanor Oliphant was one of the worst books I have ever read. This book gave me a few laughs and I did keep reading to the end but there really is no story with any conclusion and just walks you through the day to day life of an autistic girl (who doesn't know she is autistic) who works in a chip shop and has an alcoholic mother. 

There is a brutal murder in the book which you may think will eventually be an explosive part of the plot but you will be sadly disappointed. There is also the missing father who has links to the IRA story line which, again, could be an exciting plot and leads to nothing. So, to reiterate, there really is no exciting or gripping plot to be enjoyed. 

The only other comment I have on this book is it really did make me crave a chippy!

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review, I will not be posting my review elsewhere in this case.
Was this review helpful?
How I enjoyed the journey with Jelly and the crew at the a Salt and Battered in Aghybogey, I demand a sequel.  I loved the characters and the slow pace of life in the Irish town but underneath all sorts of plots were bubbling,  Each piece of the reading of the story was a revelation and I wanted Jelly to buy the shop for her own, with the inheritance from her murdered Granny.  There was the intrigue of her father and his brother, I kept hoping something would be revealed on those lines. There was so much going on we could have a series of books to clear it all up.  I will be sad not to be joining them all in the chipper tonight.  Great read, 5+ star book.
Was this review helpful?
This book really isn’t what I expected. When I first started to read it I enjoyed it and it made me laugh, as the main character Majella has a long list of things she doesn’t like about life. The more I read the book the more monotonous it became. However it wasn’t until I came to write this review and reread the synopsis. That I realised the main character Majella is autistic which changed my viewpoint of this book a little bit. This explains the monotony of each day as autistic people like routine and don’t cope well with a change to their routine.

The most interesting thing in the book for me was learning a bit more about what it was like growing up in a small town in Northern Ireland near the boarder to Southern Ireland during the troubles.


Majella lives with her alcoholic mother in a small town in Northern Ireland. Everyday has the same routine which is basically getting up late each day, wearing the same sort of clothes. Making sure that her alcoholic mother hasn’t mistakenly taken to many Pain killers with the alcohol or hurt herself. Then she gets herself ready for work and walks to the fish and chip shop called “Salt & Battered” Where she has worked for a number of years.

Majella has a long list of things she doesn’t like and these things have numerous subcategories and they are:

1: Small Talk, bullshit and gossip
2: Physical Contact
3: Noise
4: Bright Lights
5: Scented Stuff
6: Cunter (Who is her the owner of the Salt & Battered and is really called Hunter)
7: Sweating
8: Jokes
9: Makeup
10: Fashion

9.1: Makeup – Nail Polish: is to heavy – weighing fingers down – looks utterly unnatural when coloured e.g. red, orange, black giving the people the appearance of wearing beetle carapaces on their fingers.

- Difficult to apply, requiring practice, time and skill.
- Prone to smudging during drying period.
- Impermanent: Cracks & flakes sometimes in hours, but always within days.
- Requires chemicals during the production process and for removal.
- Complete wast of money.


One day things drastically change for Majella, as her grandmother is murdered. Which puts Majella right in the spotlight and everyone in the town is wanting to know her business. Majella prefers not to be noticed she’d rather people just ignored her.

This seems to make Marjella’s mother worse. As she hasn’t ever gotten over her husband disappearing when Majella was 11 years old. He was know to have dealings with the IRA and they think that’s the reason for him disappearing all those years ago. Now however with his mother being murdered people in the know have put out feelers hoping that this may make him come back. Which it doesn’t, so the only conclusion is that he is dead.

Majella, her mother and her fathers sister are all summoned to be present at the reading of her grandmothers will. This shocks them all as they didn’t even know that she’d made a will. Majella’s mum and aunt were given some money and Majella was left the farming land, the house which was in dire need of being restored just to make it habital along with the caravan. Her grandmother lived in the caravan with the house being unfit to live in. Majella’s father had started to do some repairs on the house but he lost interest when his brother was blown up by a faulty bomb he was trying to plant.

Majella’s aunt isn’t happy with only being left some money. Everyone in the town thought she would get the land and the house, seeing that her brothers were both gone. Majella knew that this would make her aunt hate her even more now , but it isn’t Majella’s fault.

On Sunday nights she always goes to the pub and has a few pint. On this particular Sunday though near to the end of the night the person who is farming her families land bought her a drink and started to try and make a deal with her about him buying the land. Majella gets angry at this and tells him off, as he’s been in the pub all night and now that she’s well oiled he comes over trying to make a deal to purchase the land.

As she’s about to leave the pub one of the other regulars asks her if she fancies anything to eat. So they go to the local Chinese and get some food. Once they have their food with them, they both get in to the guys van, and he drunkenly drives them to a deserted car park. They eat their food and then they climb into the back of the van and have sex. Majella loves sex it makes her feel good and happy. She sleeps with a few of the men in the town every now and then.

When Majella gets home later that night, she get into bed and it’s like a light has been switched on, as life has become much much clearer to her. It isn’t explained in the book how and what becomes clearer to Majalla to me that is a bit of a mystery. Even though I finally realising that the main character was autistic, it hasn’t change my view point of the book enough to warrant it any more stars. I can still only give it 2 stars.
Was this review helpful?