May 11, 2023
‘Comedy Women in Print Prize Winner’ Factory Girls is published today in paperback
Recent winner of the ‘Comedy Women In Print’ Prize, Factory Girls is published today by John Murray.
It’s the summer of 1994, and all smart-mouthed 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. She hopes she will soon be in London studying journalism—away from her crowded home, the silence and sadness surrounding her sister’s death, and most of all, away from the violence of her divided community.
As a first step, Maeve’s taken a job in a shirt factory working alongside Protestants with her best friends. 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 Handy Andy Strawbridge, her slick and untrustworthy English boss. Then, as the British loyalist marching season raises tensions among the Catholic and Protestant workforce, Maeve realizes something is going on behind the scenes at the factory. What seems to be a great opportunity to earn money turns out to be a crucible in which Maeve faces the test of a lifetime. Seeking justice for herself and her fellow workers may just be Maeve’s one-way ticket out of town.
Bitingly hilarious, clear-eyed, and steeped in the vernacular of its time and place, Factory Girls tackles questions of wealth and power, religion and nationalism, and how young women maintain hope for themselves and the future during divided, violent times.
Praise for Factory Girls:
“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."
Roddy Doyle, Booker Prize-winning author of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and Love
“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."
Mary Beth Keane, New York Times bestselling author of Ask Again, Yes
“This novel is a wonder; the heroine is cheeky, the humor dark, the dialect thick, the sorrow palpable.”
Library Journal, 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.”
Booklist, starred review
“This novel is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking: not to be missed.”
“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."
Patricia Nicol, Sunday Times, best popular fiction books of 2022
“Street-smart, ballsy and bold . . . The world of Factory Girls is filtered through her darkly witty mind, but it’s also punctuated by shocking and sudden violence . . . Gallen’s pen draws blood with the sharpness of her observations, rendering a fresh and acutely more complex portrait of Northern Ireland through Maeve’s eyes. Gallen asks, what can one young woman do with hope? Maeve Murray answers . . . Brilliantly, wickedly funny and soul-crushingly sad, Gallen has written the Vienetta of books this summer."
“A wee novel with an enormous, furious heart . . . Honest, hilarious and such a recognisable portrait of 90s Northern Ireland, Factory Girls is an essential read”
“A gorgeous, gritty and hilarious love letter to working class Northern Ireland in the 1990s. Gallen's protagonist, Maeve Murray . . . is a compelling creation who crackles brilliantly from the first pages”
“One of the most moving and hilarious novels I have ever read . . . Factory Girls is one of the best books ever written about the Troubles, and one of the best books I've read in a very long time”
“Brilliantly observed and full of heart, Factory Girls will be up there on my list of best books for this year”
“Provocative in more ways than one!”
“Majella O'Neill was no flash-in-the-pan - Factory Girls is a powerful second novel. It has all of Gallen's flair for character, her ear for dialogue and her unparalleled sense of comic timing. And this novel cuts deeper, throbs with pent-up fury, a palpable sense of real and urgent despair. Viciously funny”
“A riot of a read. A masterclass in voice, the North and the 90s”
“A much-awaited second triumph of dark humour - fabulous, dirty dancing words, that lift the soul. Gallen knows how to move us and make us roar at the same time. Jumping out with hysteria, Maeve is the hilarious queen of truth we all want to be”
“Some writers make you think; some writers make you laugh till you cry. Michelle Gallen belongs to that rare, rare group of writers who make you think even as the tears are tripping you. Factory Girls is a seriously funny novel - that manages at the same time to be deadly serious - about work, about friendship, about Northern Ireland in the months leading up to the 1994 ceasefire, and about being a teenager, any time, anywhere”
“Highly entertaining . . . crackles with good one-liners . . . yet this earthy comedy also has telling things to say about violence and division”
Martin Chilton, Independent, Books of the Month
“Gallen writes with such verve and vivacity, her pacing pitch perfect and her dialogue sharp, true and laugh out loud funny. . . In Maeve, the factory and the town, we feel the heat of the 90s in Northern Ireland, the strength and weakness of teenage friendships against a simmering backdrop of turmoil and change - everything moving forward despite the hold the past has on the place. Gallen's evocation of community and place is extraordinary, a masterclass in dark humour.”
Olivia Fitzsimons, author of The Quiet Whispers Never Stop
“Gallen manages to take a dark and violent period in history and turn it into one of the most moving and hilarious novels I have ever read. The rich cast of characters will break your heart and make you laugh out loud, sometimes within the same paragraph. I found it difficult to put this book down; while reading it the rest of the world fell away and I was transported to Northern Ireland via an unforgettable voice and a steadily boiling story of friendship, grief, and determination. Factory Girls is one of the best books ever written about The Troubles, and one of the best books I've read in a very long time”
Silas House, author of Southernmost and Lark Ascending
“Original and compelling . . . Gallen's comic, insightful novel . . . shares brilliantly the tangled stories of young women in a struggling provincial town. . . . Factory Girls brings a hidden generation of young women to the literary stage, and does so in a flurry of 'thons' and 'skitters’ ”
Nicholas Allen, Irish Times
“The perfect pick for those missing their dose of Derry Girls”
“If the cast of Derry Girls worked in a shirt making factory . . . There's a lot of laugh-out-loud humour . . . but at its heart it's an emotional read”
“Gallen's pen draws blood with the sharpness of her observations, rendering a fresh and acutely more complex portrait of Northern Ireland through Maeve's eyes . . . Brilliantly, wickedly funny and soul-crushingly sad, Gallen has written the Vienetta of books this summer”
Fiona Murphy, Irish Independent
“Funny, poignant and provocative”
Daily Mirror (Ulster)
Patricia Nicol, Daily Mail
“One of the most entertaining, engagingly written summer reads you will lay your hands on”
Sunday Life Magazine
“Impossible to put down, and packed with more humour and poignancy than a Catholic funeral, Factory Girls is a bold and brilliant snapshot of working-class lives during the North's most tumultuous period”
Sunday Business Post
“This brash and lively novel is a black comedy of great skill and wit . . . Raucous, in your face, sexually frank and (often hilariously) politically incorrect . . . it's intoxicating, defiant, bitter laughter in the dark, knowing comedy at its blackest pitch”
“Hilariously funny and heartbreakingly sad. Don't read this book in public if you don't like howling with laughter, or weeping, in front of strangers”
Penny Wincer, That's Not My Age