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Excerpt from Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen

Factory Girls

by Michelle Gallen
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  • Nov 2022
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"You're very sure of yourself, aren't you?"

Maeve realized there and then that Andy Strawbridge wasn't great at reading women.

"Sure that you'll get good results," he said. "That you'll get what you want."

Maeve raised an eyebrow at him — a look she'd spent years practicing in the mirror — and she lied. "I usually do."

Andy said nothing for what felt like a long time, then tossed his pen onto the table. "So tell me. Why should I bother hiring and training you if you're going to walk out of my door as soon as you get your results?"

Maeve parroted what her mam'd said over breakfast. "I'd say your labor doesn't come much cheaper than teenage girls still living with their mammies."

Andy narrowed his eyes, then stretched into a yawn. The sound of the leather chair creaking under his arse did something funny to Maeve's lady garden. She crossed her legs and squeezed her thighs together to try and smother the feeling, which was a mistake.

"You can start Monday. Go down to Mary in the office. She'll fill you in on what to expect."

Maeve mashed her fag out in the ashtray like she was used to smoking only half a cigarette instead of sucking it right down to the butt. Then she stood up and looked Andy dead in the eye. "See you Monday."

"If you're lucky, Ms. Murray, you'll see me."

Nobody had ever called Maeve "Mizz Murray" before. Teachers used "Miss Murray" when they were sneering at her. So did neighbors who knew she was a daughter of Seán Murray, but couldn't remember if she was the poor dead one or that girl who needs manners put on her. Maeve didn't know what "Mizz Murray" meant, but she suspected Andy was being a dick. She grabbed her bag and walked out.

When the spring-hinged office door snapped shut behind her, she gulped for air the way you do after a low punch in the guts. But the fear that Andy was listening sent her clattering down the stairs towards the safety of Caroline and Aoife.

Maeve knocked on the office door and said, "Hiyas."

Mary growled, "C'mon in," without turning her head. She was hunched over a fag behind a desk piled high with folders and paperwork. Fabric samples, shirts and patterns lay in heaps on the chairs and floor. Mary's office, like her cardigan, had the whiff of being occupied by a woman who was long past caring.

Maeve sat down beside a row of mucky green filing cabinets that put her in mind of British soldiers — hulking awkwardly, no matter where they were stationed. Caroline sat opposite, tugging at her curly red hair and frowning at a form. Aoife held a clipboard on her lap and had her legs crossed, with one foot bobbing as if she was performing at a feis. Maeve had made Aoife go in to Andy first, because she was giving her the bokes with the way she was dressed in a beige skirt suit and a lacy cream blouse.

She was wearing a fucking blouse.

Maeve knew by the cut of Aoife that her mother had dressed her. But the awful thing was that the whole outfit suited her, from her blush-pink click-clack heels, all the way up to her naturally blonde chignon.


They'd learned in Irish class that "Aoife" meant "pleasant radiance" while "Maeve" meant "she who intoxicates" (which betrayed just how much Irish Maeve's parents had understood at her christening back in 1976).

Mary eyed Maeve as though she was a suspicious package. "Did he give ye a start?"

"Aye. He said to come down tae ye for the paperwork." Mary sighed and got to her feet. She was of that last generation where first-born girls were called Mary, and the girls who came after were Bridget, Kathleen, Margaret, Elizabeth or Anne. She'd had the same grey hair, brown NHS glasses, blue cardigan and sharp tongue for as long as Maeve had known her and had worked in fits and starts around the town: she'd done stints in the chemist, the school canteen, the solicitor's and a few shops. But Mary never lasted anywhere. Maeve's mam said it was because she'd missed her true calling when they'd shut the Magdalene laundries.

Excerpted from Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen. Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Gallen. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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