Cover Image: Factory Girls

Factory Girls

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Member Reviews

I'm a big fan of Derry Girls and books/tv shows set in Ireland so I really enjoyed this one! I liked Maeve and enjoyed her story. I found some parts humorous as well.

Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC.
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I really liked the idea of this book, but it just fell apart for me unfortunately. The premise and ad copy for it were really interesting and well done, but I found myself not being very engaged with the book at the end of the day.
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Thank you to Net Galley for this advance e-book copy of “ Factory  Girls” byMichelle Gallan. The main. Character in this book, Maeve Murphy,  is looking to leave Northern Ireland behind in the summer of 1994.. To earn money for university she starts working in a shirt factory where she must iron 100 shirts an hour while avoiding the advances of her boss, Andy.This is a violent time in Northern Ireland where Protestants and Catholics are still fighting over their divided land.There is lots of drama and behind the scenes intrigue in this book.As first generation Irish this book hit home with all the drama between the Catholics and Protestants.
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Thank you NetGalley and Algonquin Books for the digital copy of Factory Girls. 

Factory Girls, set during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, follows Maeve Murray on her final summer before University as she waits for her exam results and navigates working at a shirt factory. 

One thing that I think Michelle Gallen does an amazing job with is setting The Troubles in the background — just blase enough for someone who has grown up in this conflict but with enough attention to detail to highlight the fear, anger, and struggle of Northern Ireland at the time. The tension is evident on every page and is met with the humor one would expect from an eighteen year old. Fans of Derry Girl will enjoy this approach to life in Northern Ireland. 

It took me a while to get used to the actual writing. Though it's in third-person point of view, Gallen writes with a heavy Irish dialect, the actual words mimicking the sounds rather than the 'correct' spelling. There were moments where I had to read the sections out loud to myself to get a hold of the rhythm and what the actual words were. However, once I got used to it, I found it really aided to the story — especially as Maeve interacts with various characters of different class and being from Englands vs. Ireland. 

I found the first half of the book to be a little slow going, maybe a bit repetitive. It took me a while to actual get into it and have the desire to not put the book down. However, the second half of the novel picked up steam and was able to stretch its legs. I read through the second half in one sitting. 

Even so, it wasn't enough to fully redeem the first half. Ultimately, Factory Girls is a decently strong novel, delving into a teenage during The Troubles and facing everything with humor and grit. Gallen does a great job of diving into the class struggles, the sexism, and politics of the time. It's let down a bit by the pacing and tendency to fall into repetition when not needed. 

Overall, I'd rate it a 3.75 but round up to a full 4 as needed.
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Unfortunately not my cup of tea. The premise sounded interesting, but fell flat in practice. Certainly not a bad read, but think we can pass on this one for the collection.
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At turns funny, angry, and tragic, this coming-of-age novel brings the smart, sarcastic, yet hopeful (despite her family circumstances and money struggles that keep them in poverty) character of Maeve to life. Brilliant and clever scenes between Maeve, her friends, family, and coworkers show the effects of the Troubles on the people of Northern Ireland as well as the landscape, the economy, and even the school system. Maeve is a flawed heroine in much the same way as Majella, the heroine of Gallen's first novel, but with a very different personality and story to tell.
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I loved Derry Girls, so when I heard this was the show in book form, I had to have it. Unfortunately, that was not a good enough reason to read a book. This just wasn't for me.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for my review.
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This book was so descriptive--I felt like I was living everything right alongside the characters. Michelle Gallen captures a gritty and impoverished town in Northern Ireland rife with Catholic and Protestant strife and dangerous politics in the 1990s. It follows Maeve Murray, a recent high school graduate who is working full-time at the local shirt factory to earn money to move to London and go to university. But something is underfoot at the factory and in the town, can she seek justice in time? This story transports you directly to 1994 with its pop cultural references and vernacular. I really enjoyed the story and the various hardships and histories addressed in its pages.
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My Thoughts
The Very First Thoughts – One Page into the Book
Raw and honest.

And then the rest
While the language in the book is colorful (in many ways) and not something I am normally used to, there is an underlying sense of heart and strength and even dark humor that comes through or maybe, permeates the pages with a matte-like finish – reminiscent of the age and beautiful in its own way – unlike glossy prints, which shine and shimmer.

Maeve is not someone who knows pretense and speaks her mind, quite colorfully and vocally too. While her friends are each so very different from her and each other that I wonder at their friendship. And then I recall some of my own friendships, and know it is possible!

To be honest, I started reading this book later than I expected to, and have had to look up words very so often (Irish dialect usage and even other words that show up in unexpected places to make me rethink their meanings but am as a result now finding delightful ways I can use familiar words) that I am taking longer to finish. So I am a third of the way through this book at the time of this blog tour stop. But I know I will finish it pretty soon! For it intrigues me.

And while the book might cause me to give it a ‘R’ or TV-MA rating in terms of the colorful, no-holds-barred language, it is riveting and as I already mentioned, so very honest. And the character development so far, as well as the story of the Troubles (which I had not read about before), and of course, the obvious location (due to the story) all have kept me reading and invested in the book.

In Summary
A book for those who enjoy fiction based on real events (maybe this is not historical fiction as it set closer to the current times, but definitely will find itself in the list of cool powerful historical fiction reads sometime in the future.) And I would rather hope that history teaches us through these books at the least.

Thank you to Algonquin Books for inviting me on this blog tour for Factory Girls by by Michelle Gallen.
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3.5 stars rounded up to 4
An enjoyable coming of age novel set in a small town in Northern Ireland in 1994 at the tail end of the time of violent sectarian conflict known as The Troubles. The story is about a brash young woman named Maeve who is working in the town's shirt factory for the summer along with her two friends, Caroline and Aoife, while waiting for the result of their A-level exams which will determine what university they can attend. I've read several books that take place during The Troubles but this is the first written from the point of view of a teenager who has grown up knowing nothing else - a world where bombings and murder are commonplace. It was that perspective that I enjoyed most about this novel.
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a fun title reminiscent of derry girls and normal people. Love the literature coming from Irish authors currently
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My desire to know more about the modern history of Northern Ireland drew me to Michelle Gallen’s novel, Factory Girls. It’s the summer of 1994, Maeve Murray and her two best friends await their exam results and look forward to escaping their hometown for university. The three young women get hired for the summer at the local shirt factory to earn money and keep themselves occupied while they wait for their futures to begin.
Maeve, who was raised within the segregated Catholic side of town, learns to navigate the mixed community - Catholics and Protestants working side by side - of factory workers. She humorously refers to the classic self-help book How to Make Friends and Influence People as a guide to winning over her co-workers. 

Gallen deftly depicts the coping methods and emotional contradictions of living in constant danger. When caring makes you vulnerable, the threat of conflict becomes part of daily life. Maeve is always weighing the risks - a second story pub is less likely to attract a random attack, and it’s safer to be surrounded by Protestants when the police show up. 

As a fan of Derry Girls, I was already familiar with much of the slang and could easily hear the distinctive accents and cadence of dialogue in my head. Some readers may struggle with this immersion into such a strong dialect, but the language flows easier as you sink into the story.

My favorite moments were between Maeve and Fidelma, an intimidating bruiser who becomes an unlikely friend. Fidelma speaks her mind and few dare to cross her. As her school friends drift a bit, wrestling with their own futures, Fidelma, who studied at the school of hard knocks, provides counsel.

My only frustration with the book was factory manager Andy Strawbridge. He’s presented as a villain from the start, a cocky Englishman who preys on young factory employees. But his intentions with Maeve are murky. And her continued attraction to him was disappointing. His few and seemingly random attempts to act as mentor weren’t enough to convey emotional depth, if that was the intent. Perhaps he was meant to be an enigma, but I would have preferred more consistency of character.

I largely enjoyed this book and recommend it to readers who favor historical fiction and coming of age stories. The final scenes will make you smile and give you hope for Maeve’s future.

Thank you to Algonquin Books and NetGalley for the gift of this ARC.
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Unfortunately this was a case of not the book's issue, but the reader's. Irish politics is not a subject I'm super familiar with so trying to grasp the power dynamics and political strife took me out of the story. I couldn't absorb the sentiment behind the character's feelings on politics since I wasn't certain I understood the situation itself. The Irish slang took a little while to get used to and felt like it made some of the more sentimental and deeper moments feel choppy and flippant. Great story idea, the execution of it just wan't my style.
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Set in 1994, this coming of age novel takes place against a backdrop of the Troubles. Maeve begins work at a factory to get some cash so she can head to England to study journalism in the fall. Her friends Aiofe and Caroline are also at the factory, and there are plenty of distractions outside of work and dangers, too, to cause Maeve to wonder if she’ll ever get out of the Northern Island town they've grown up in. 

That said, Maeve is a tough cookie, and she is determined to get to England. She's funny and driven, and her friends have somewhat different perspectives on life. Maeve is also still thinking about her sister, Deirdre, now dead, who could no longer cope with everything around her.

Maeve's work at the factory exposes her to even more viewpoints, as half of the factory's population is Protestant (Maeve has been raised Catholic). Maeve learns much, and sees this as a good step to her experiences in London.

I had, despite the wonderfully textured setting and characters, a somewhat tough time sustaining my interest in this book. 
3.5 stars.

Thank you to Netgalley and to Algonquin Books for this ARC in exchange for my review.
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Set in Northern Ireland in 1994, Maeve desperately wants to leave her small town and the Troubles behind. She spends the summer working in a shirt factory while waiting for her exam results. Maeve’s dream is to attend the University College of London to study journalism. The story is told with humour and written in the vernacular. Can the Catholics and the Protestants ever find peace? Will Maeve fulfill her dream? Great storytelling.
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I picked up Factory Girls because it was likened to Derry Girls. While both are about Irish Catholic teenagers, the similarities stop there. Derry Girls is silly and funny, while Factory Girls feels more authentic and it is definitely more serious.

Maeve, Caroline and Aiofe spend their summer slaving in the local factory while waiting for the results of their university entrance exam results. During this summer of transition they become adults in the sense that their eyes are opened to the details of the violent conflict between Protestant and Catholic Ireland through direct interaction with "Prods". Their increasingly complicated friendship is also viewed through a microscope during this summer. I definitely felt the omnipresent threat of violence and the weight of living in the era of The Troubles. The differences between socio-economic classes is another explored theme that involves girls both past and present. Flashbacks are used to more deeply dive into the narrator’s (Maeve) character; this includes some insight into her family. The author brought out my empathy and sympathy for Maeve.

The girls are an interesting group of friends. I felt ensconced in all things Irish as the author use quite a bit of slang and local dialect; it gave the characters authenticity but made for slower reading by this Yankee. Factory Girls is a worthy read--especially if you're unfamiliar with that era in Irish-English history. Hopefully, it inspires some further reading and discovering for some readers.
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I loved Gallen’s Big Girl, Small Town, so I was happy to receive an advanced review copy of Gallen’s second book. I highly recommend her for anyone who’s looking for something similar to Derry Girls. I enjoyed this book quite a bit, though I didn’t love it as much as Gallen’s first book. As a historical novel, I got a much better understanding of The Troubles from this book than I did from either Big Girl, Small Town or Derry Girls. This book is darker in tone from Big Girl, which was more about a day in the life of its main character, where this one focuses more on IRA violence and how it impacts the characters. And while I appreciated that, I didn’t love Maeve as much as I did Majella, nor did I find this book as funny or as touching.

Maeve is smart and itching to get out of her small town. Like her friends, she’s waiting on her exam results to find out if she can study in London. In the meantime, they’re working in the shirt factory, avoiding their creepy boss, and preparing for the next stage in their lives. While going to London is all Maeve has ever dreamed of, she’s also terrified to leave.

What I liked a lot in this book was the way Maeve goes from knowing no Protestants to working side by side with them and even considering some of them friends. I like the way she grows beyond her very small circle of friends and builds her independence. I particularly appreciated the way Gallen shows the hardships the people in this town lived with every day; bombings are a regular occurrence and everyone knows someone who was injured or killed. The hatred the Protestants and Catholics feel for each other felt very real in this book, even though it also seemed completely unreasonable.

I think the main reason I didn’t love this book as much as Big Girl is that Maeve could be a difficult character to like a lot of the time, and I didn’t feel I got to know her very well. Her decisions don’t feel well thought out and she comes off as callous to her best friends and her friend’s brother, who’s interested in her. I didn’t come away with a sense that Maeve is close to any of her friends or her family (and maybe that’s why she hates her small town so much). I could completely understand her discomfort with Aiofe’s wealth and status, yet was disappointed that when her friend needs her she isn’t really there for her.

The author spends a lot of time on the suicide of Maeve’s older sister, but besides showing us that, it isn’t that clear how Maeve has been impacted, nor does the author explore other things about Maeve, like why she wants to become a journalist. I liked that Maeve was tough and confident and I also appreciated her sexuality. Some of the scenes between her and the factory owner were the most interesting because Gallen creates a lot of emotional and sexual tension. Maeve’s no innocent; she knows Andy abuses the factory girls and she’s both drawn to him and afraid of him.

But with her friends she seemed oddly indifferent – she has no opinion about her roommate’s new boyfriend or how Aiofe will feel if she gets together with her brother, or even any consideration about whether they will stay friends after they go their separate ways.

I listened to Big Girl, Small Town on audiobook with Nicola Coughlin’s fantastic narration. It’s likely that I missed some of the tone of this book by reading it instead of listening to it, and that’s why it felt a little bit flat to me. I also loved that most of Big Girl was set in Majella’s job at the chip shop. In this book, the factory was certainly interesting, but lacked detail about the day to day work, other the payroll and occasional work events.

Thanks to NetGalley and publisher Algonquin Books for this advance review copy and the opportunity to participate in a review tour. This book was released on November 29, 2022.
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Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen is a story of an 18-year-old girl, Maeve Murray who lives in a Northern Ireland town. She is waiting for her grades, GCSEs to arrive that will enable her to move to London to study journalism.

The story takes place in 1994 during the "troubles" of the time where the Catholics and the 'prods', Protestants, are at odds. There are bombings going on that the people of NI take as a given. It has been going on so long that it has become the norm. This conflict went on for 30 years so this time frame for the novel fits right in.

Maeve and her best friends, Caroline and Aoife get a job at a shirt factory and move in together in an apartment. Maeve wants to make enough money so she can go to London. This factory employees both the Catholics and Protestants which at times can be a challenge for both sides. 

The boss, Andy Strawbridge is a good-looking guy, and he knows it and uses it to his advantage. To get the girls he wants and further his future prospects. He has his eyes on Maeve for sure. She is not sure if she wants the attention or not. After watching Andy, the girls determine that he is not on the up and up. His treatment of the women he employs is disrespectful to say the least.

This book reflects the troubles between the Irish, British, the Catholics and the Protestants and the IRA. There is mention of the conflicts between these factions, told straightforward but with a bit of humor. This summer has the girls partying a lot after work hours. There is sadness in the story also because Maeve's sister had committed suicide and Maeve is trying to understand the reasons which can make her bitter at times.

I found that I liked Maeve, even though she was pretty brash, and her colorful language added to the humor in the story even though the 'troubles' was anything but humorous. This was an extremely dangerous time for the people of Northern Ireland. 

The author's writing definitely reflected this conflict and how the people lived during this time. Written with knowledge and humor made the story flow, otherwise I think it would have been difficult to read. I love reading books by Irish authors and this one is one of the best I have read in a while. I give it 5 stars!
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I loved this book! It’s a bit like Derry Girls, but much darker. Very convincing. I loved all the slang. Satisfying but sad ending. I see this book becoming popular in book club circuits.
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Set in 1990s Northern Ireland during the Troubles, Factory Girls follows Maeve as she handles her changing friendships and the heightening tensions between Catholics and Protestants in her hometown while she works a summer factory job before heading off to college. This is essentially a coming of age story with issues of culture, class, and grief at its center. Though it took me around 100 pages to become fully immersed in the story - likely a product of the Irish dialects, the somewhat unfamiliar history/cultures, and just generally a slow start - I flew through the last two thirds of the book and came to really enjoy Maeve as a character. I definitely want to read more about the Troubles, because while this book utilized that history as its primary background I did feel somewhat lost at times as a millennial American who doesn’t know much about Irish history. I don’t say that as a criticism of the book, but as a “look what this book has me curious about now” kind of compliment.
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