Girl Troubles

Michelle Gallen talks about her new novel, Ireland in the 1990s, and finding your way in a bombed-out town

From the cover of <em>Factory Girls</em> (Algonquin Books)
From the cover of Factory Girls (Algonquin Books)

Michelle Gallen grew up in Northern Ireland’s County Tyrone amid the period of sectarian bloodshed known as the Troubles. By the time she left home for university in the 1990s, her town was neatly segregated, with Protestants sticking to their neighborhoods and Catholics to theirs. Gallen’s new novel, Factory Girls, takes place in a town much like this during the summer of 1994. While waiting for her final exam results, Maeve Murray lands a job at a shirt factory working alongside her best friends, Aoife O’Neill and Caroline Jackson—and a gaggle of Protestants. It’s the first time in their lives that the girls have spent time with “the other side” (let alone working under the thumb of a British boss). As tensions rise outside the factory, the temperature rises within it, too, and what started as a summer job ends up teaching—and costing—Maeve more than she imagined.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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