Originally being from just outside Glasgow, I love reading Scottish fiction, especially fiction with an authentic Scottish voice. And Emma Rae’s debut novel Be guid tae yer Mammy definitely has a strong authentic Glaswegian voice. This is a very funny read, extremely nostalgic, and at times even quite disturbing in its portrayal of family dynamics. It is also a very poignant novel as it reminds us of the importance of following our dreams.
Be guid tae yer Mammy is a bittersweet novel as it tells the story of matriarch Jeannie and the drama of her dysfunctional family. At 93 years-old, Jeannie strongly believes that if her ‘weans know that if they’re guid tae their mammy, they’ll get there blessings.’ Yet Jeannie has never forgiven her youngest daughter Marie for not being born a boy.
When relations in the family take a dramatic turn, Marie realises she can’t take any more and cuts all ties with her mother and two sisters. Being forced to take a stand causes a lot of heartache for Marie but as Jeannie’s age catches up with her, is the dominating matriarch truly prepared to confront her own wrongdoings that have caused her family to fall apart so bitterly?
The brilliant Glaswegian humour runs throughout this novel, especially through the character of Jeannie. Yes, she is bitter, she is a judgemental gossip and she is selfish, but I couldn’t help but really like Jeannie. Yet it wasn’t just her acidic humour that endeared me to Jeannie. She has kept her secrets close to her heart, including her chance of a life of Hollywood stardom being snatched away from her. Instead she settled for a married life that was truly hard:
Ah’m a guid Catholic. Efter three weans and three miscarriages, there was nae way ah wis openin ma legs again. Especially when Donald raised his haun tae me…Taking up wi him wis the biggest mistake o ma life. Love’s blind, but marriage is the eye-opener…Even though Donald worked in the yards and liked the dancin’, he tellt me he wis never gaun’ae be wan fur the drinkin. He’d seen it ruin too many lives. Famous last words.
The novel is also a powerful portrayal of chronic illness and hidden disabilities, including how people with chronic illness and disabilities may be treated. This is depicted through the characters of Marie and Marie’s daughter Kate who has anxiety and OCD. This portrayal is insightful, emotional and so authentic. I felt really moved by Kate’s story who aspires to become a scriptwriter, especially the very touching conclusion to this particular strand of the novel.
As I mention above, Jeannie had me laughing frequently throughout the novel, especially when she is moved into a care home. I swear what comes out of her mouth could have easily come from some of my relatives. In a sense, Jeannie’s voice was so familiar to me and I loved that. I was also really moved by Jeannie at times, especially in her last meeting with her old friend Lizzie. I was so emotional reading these particular passages.
Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of the blog tour of Emma Grae’s Be guid tae yer Mammy. I really look forward to reading more from Emma who brilliantly brings the voice of real Scottish people to the fore. To follow the blog tour (which starts today) please see below.
Be guid tae yer Mammy was published by Unbound on 19th August.
Happy reading everyone! 🙂