Book Review: Small Town Girl by Donna McLean

Publisher: Hodder Studio
Format: ebook
Release Date: February 3rd, 2022
Genre: Non-Fiction – Memoir

Rating: 5/5

You ever read certain books and once you finish it, feel angry more attention wasn’t paid to it on its release? Like it deserves attention as much as the latest celebrity biography, no matter who the focus is. Small Town Girl should have had a wider impact than it did, and reignited the public’s consciousness about the spy cops scandal, reminding them of the very real people at the heart of the story, people who had their lives destroyed by undercover police.

McLean doesn’t just talk about the women duped into relationships here; she also highlights other victims, other activists who found themselves blacklisted, jailed and more. But at the centre of this book is her story, not just her relationship with Carlo, but her passion being reignited, the work she does to try and keep the story afloat, the bonds forged between activists who dared point out the truth at the heart of the state.

This is a story of corruption, but through it we also see the very real people impacted. It feels like you could be sitting in a cosy room with Donna herself, sharing a bottle of wine by a fireplace as she tells you about her life from the moment she was told her ex was a police officer.

There is a warmth to the voice in this book, and it feels like an understanding that too much too fast might be more than most people can take. We’re taken through the events slowly, snapshots of memories filtering through as we move back and forth with Donna, tales of her relationship woven in with what’s happening to her in the present day, as she becomes more deeply involved with the activism surrounding police corruption.

It would be easy to say Donna and the other women involved are strong, and there’s certainly a strength they all carry, but at the heart, they’re women who felt like they had no other choice, who were dealt a shitty hand, who must have been experiencing tremendous hurt, on top of the abrupt breakups they went through, when they found out the truth. Donna’s relationship reads like any other, and like any abusive relationship, the red flags don’t become clear until after the end.

It’s a book that will – and should – make you feel angry, and frustrated, but able to appreciate how many people are fighting, and how many people are there to help them along. Again, it deserves to be read, and deserves to have an impact.

Thank you to Hodder Studio for providing a copy of this ebook via NetGalley. Views remain my own.


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