I’m excited to be a part of Michelle Gallen’s blog tour for her debut novel, Big Girl Small Town. The book takes place in a small town in Northern Ireland after the Troubles. I’ve always been fascinated by this period, maybe because it was often the only major conflict on the news when I was growing up. (I was too young to remember Vietnam.)
But Big Girl Small Town isn’t so much about the conflict, which had passed by the time the story takes place. It’s more about a young woman who is just trying to get by. Majella works in a fish and chips shop and lives with her mother, a substance abuser and anorexic. Majella’s father disappeared during the Troubles and the mother has never been the same since.
I loved how Majella turned to the American TV show, Dallas, which she owned on DVD.
“It was snowing in Dallas, Texas. Lucy Ewing was riding on horseback to the post box. Majella rummaged in her bedside locker for the lighter, tobacco and skins she kept with her codeine, tissues and loose change. She found the pouch and reached under the bed for the biscuit tin lid that she used as a tray. She pulled a wad of tobacco out and teased it along the length of a skin, then she unwrapped the hash and started to toast it. On the telly, Lucy had collected the mail and was burning a letter.”
Through a period of one week, Gallen shows the goings on in the town and how the people are poorly off, but still make a life for themselves and try to find hope. I’ve read other books set in Ireland proper that revolve around one night in a bar. The style here is similar and the point of the book is to show a place and a time. There is not a lot of drama or action, but, then again, after all the upheaval during the Troubles, that’s not such a bad thing.