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Reviews of Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen

Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen

Factory Girls

by Michelle Gallen
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  • Nov 2022
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About This Book

Book Summary

A funny, fierce, and unforgettable read about a young woman working a summer job in a shirt factory in Northern Ireland, while tensions rise both inside and outside the factory walls.

It's the summer of 1994, and all Maeve Murray wants are good final exam results so she can earn her ticket out of the wee Northern Irish town she has grown up in during the Troubles—away from her crowded home, the silence and sadness surrounding her sister's death, and most of all, away from the simmering violence of her divided community. And as a first step, Maeve's taken a summer job in a local shirt factory working alongside Protestants with her best friends, kind, innocent Caroline Jackson and privileged and clever Aoife O'Neill. But getting the right exam results is only part of Maeve's problem—she's got to survive a tit-for-tat paramilitary campaign, iron 100 shirts an hour all day every day, and deal with the attentions of Andy Strawbridge, her slick and untrustworthy English boss. What seems to be a great opportunity to earn money before starting university turns out to be a crucible in which Maeve is tested in ways she may not be equipped to handle. Seeking justice for herself and her fellow workers may just be Maeve's one-way ticket out of town.

Bitingly hilarious, perceptive, and steeped in the vernacular of its time and place, Factory Girls is perfect for fans of voice-driven stories with bite, humor, and realism, such as the Netflix series Derry Girls and novels by Douglas Stuart, Roddy Doyle, and Anna Burns.

Thursday, 2 June 1994
74 days until results

Maeve Murray was just eighteen years old when she first met Andy Strawbridge but she knew he was a fucker the minute she laid eyes on him. In fairness, she'd expected it. He was an Englishman who drove into the town for work. Nobody knew him, but everyone knew of him. She'd heard the stories about him taking his pick of the factory girls, offering them lifts home where he'd park his Jag up some lonely lane so he could get a blowjob from whoever was belted into the front passenger seat. She'd tried to listen to the stories with only one ear, for she knew the people spouting that shite about Andy would've said the same of Father McGowan, who wasn't fit to find his mickey for a pish.

But when Maeve stood face to face with Andy Strawbridge in his office in the factory, she knew every last word she'd heard about him was true — and was probably only half the story. She'd come prepared, slouching in like she already worked there, with her hair ...

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Reviews

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Gallen walks her narrative tightrope perfectly, balancing within Maeve's first-person account a story grounded in the horrific realities around her with the more ordinary — but still impactful, both to the protagonist and to readers — pains of growing up and of seeing one's girlhood fading rapidly away. Though Maeve (like Gallen) had a childhood scarred with violence, the harsh emergence into adulthood still comes as a shock. Gallen tempers this somewhat by adding flashback scenes throughout Factory Girls that allow Maeve a more introspective tone than in her normal stream of consciousness. In the present day, however, she can hardly fend off the effects of long hours, physical pain and sexual assault from her boss at the factory. Factory Girls brings the simmering, ever-present fear of the Troubles directly to readers through Maeve's descriptive observations, littered with memories of the haunting violence she has witnessed throughout her childhood...continued

Full Review (743 words)

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(Reviewed by Maria Katsulos).

Media Reviews

Library Journal (starred review)
From the author of Big Girl, Small Town, this novel is a wonder; the heroine is cheeky, the humor dark, the dialect thick, the sorrow palpable. Fans of Kenneth Branagh's Belfast and television's Derry Girls will find much to love.

The Sunday Times (UK)
A cracking, confident follow-up: at times savagely funny, but with a loamy undertow of complex feeling...the highlights are...its deft characterization, observational humour and cracking dialogue...this entertaining, touching novel should also appeal to fans of contemporary authors such as Lisa McInerney, Louise Kennedy and Roddy Doyle.

Booklist (starred review)
Gallen fluidly juxtaposes the pedestrian worries of small-town life against the Troubles of the mid-1990s…For fans of Derry Girls and the plucky heroines of Marian Keyes.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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...A sensationally entertaining novel that's deeper than it first appears.

Publishers Weekly
[A] sharp chronicle of the coming-of-age of three Catholic teenage girls during the waning days of the Troubles...Gallen offers piercing snapshots of the characters' everyday lives amid steady bursts of sectarian violence...This is lovely.

Author Blurb Mary Beth Keane, New York Times bestselling author of Ask Again, Yes
Michelle Gallen's Factory Girls pulses with dark, irreverent humor. Set in a place where dreams are laughable at best, dangerous at worst, it's a big F you to the only world these characters know. And yet, there's vulnerability here. Hope, too. I loved it.

Author Blurb Roddy Doyle, Booker Prize-winning author of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and Love
Factory Girls is full of the stuff that we're starting to expect of Michelle Gallen; wild, hilariously angry characters, and language that is vital, bang-on, and seriously funny.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book



Segregation and Integration in Northern Irish Education

A brick and stone building that housed Sion Mills Public Elementary School, one of the first integrated schools in Northern Ireland The history of mostly separate education for Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland is a complicated one, existing alongside discriminatory and segregated employment, marriage and housing laws. In Michelle Gallen's Factory Girls, school is one of the most significant areas where the period of intense sectarian conflict between Protestants and Catholics known as the Troubles (1968-1998) imposes on the daily lives of those who have little agency — the children of Northern Ireland.

Though Catholic protagonist Maeve Murray attended a nominally integrated school (in other words, one that accepted both Catholic and Protestant students), she notes that this was only for show, as in practice Catholics would not dare attend a ...

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Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

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