Book review: Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen

Big Girl Small Town

I saw this described as ‘Milkman meets Derry Girls’ – and I LOVE Derry Girls, so requested an ARC from Netgalley!

Here’s the blurb:

”  *Stuff Majella knows*
-God doesn’t punish men with baldness for wearing ladies’ knickers
-Banana-flavoured condoms taste the same as nutrition shakes
-Not everyone gets a volley of gunshots over their grave as they are being lowered into the ground

*Stuff Majella doesn’t know*
-That she is autistic
-Why her ma drinks
-Where her da is

Other people find Majella odd. She keeps herself to herself, she doesn’t like gossip and she isn’t interested in knowing her neighbours’ business. But suddenly everyone in the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up wants to know all about hers.
Since her da disappeared during the Troubles, Majella has tried to live a quiet life with her alcoholic mother. She works in the local chip shop (Monday-Saturday, Sunday off), wears the same clothes every day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, nuked in the microwave) and binge watches Dallas (the best show ever aired on TV) from the safety of her single bed. She has no friends and no boyfriend and Majella thinks things are better that way.

But Majella’s safe and predictable existence is shattered when her grandmother dies and as much as she wants things to go back to normal, Majella comes to realise that maybe there is more to life. And it might just be that from tragedy comes Majella’s one chance at escape.”

Now, I’ve never read Milkman – so my comparison would be it’s a cross between ‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’ and Derry Girls.

The book is all written from Majella’s point of view – and each chapter is headed by an item off her list of things she likes and dislikes.  That means the ‘chapters’ are seemingly random in length.

I really enjoyed the way the spoken elements were written in a Northern Irish dialect.  I have friends and family who live in the Belfast area – and I could actually hear them talking at times!

I kept waiting for something exciting to happen – and something potentially very exciting does happen – but it does not change the book.  It is the minutiae of Majella’s life, day in day out.  Be it at home with her drunken mother or at the chipper with her colleagues and various customers.

Some of it is mildly entertaining, some of it is a bit gross (I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book which has a number of descriptions of changing tampons), some of it is a bit sad – but a lot of it is boring and repetitive.

This is not Eleanor and this is not Derry Girls.  Majella does not have the appeal of Eleanor and there is nowhere near the humour of Derry Girls (emphasised by watching the Great British Festive Bake Off with some of the cast in during the period of reading the book!)

I persevered – as I don’t like to be beaten by a book, and I really thought it might suddenly get better – but I wouldn’t recommend you bother to be honest.

It’s not often I give a bad  book review – I love all genres of books – but this was not one for me.




One thought on “Book review: Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen

  1. I haven’t seen Derry Girls so thought it was mike Eleanor Oliphant meets Milkman, I enjoyed it and probably all the more after listening to it being discussed on the Irish Times Woman’s Podcast. Great too that’s it’s been nominated for the Comedy Women in Print Prize 2020. That bare faced transparency is quite confronting, but I’m dying to know what happened when she rocked up to the lawyers office with her JR Ewing epiphany!


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