This review is long overdue. A while back, I supported a Scots book on Unbound called Be guid tae yer mammy. As readers know—as this website shows—I’m a big supporter of all things Scotland and Scottish. Be guid tae yer mammy popped up on Twitter for me, as I follow a few Scottish and Scots authors. After following the author, Emma Grae, for a while and learning more about the book, I decided to back it.
The book is getting closer and closer to its publication date and I got an early copy to give you guys some details on it. So, if you’re into Glasgow, the Scots language, and love getting book recommendations, keep on reading!
Be guid tae yer mammy is a story that spans a generation of women—with the prologue starting in 1958 but the main story taking place in present day. We follow Jean, Marie, Kate, and Isla: all women in the same family, but all different generations. After difficulties and fights surround the family, causing fallouts and growing bad blood, we begin to see all of the conflicts, pain, and misunderstandings that have led to this family wreckage.
This book is a human drama, really, and I think that’s what moved me about it. It’s not a genre I typically read, but the characters were interesting and understandable—and so wonderfully human. Everyone had their own story and it makes you see just how much our own stories connect to those around us. More than that, we can see just how one’s past can affect one’s present: their decisions, actions, and how they treat others. This makes each of these main characters sympathetic in their own way.
If you’re someone interested in reading more Scots—the Scots leid—Be guid tae yer mammy is a great place to start. Now, I know I have familiarity with Scots; I’ve read it, listened to it, and even occasionally write in it. So, does that mean you have to have some Scots skills in order to read this book?
Not at all! In terms of the Scots language, it’s not a challenging read. I would actually say it’s probably a good starting point if you want to read more Scots.
Pro tip: if you’re able to, read it out loud—or in your head—in the best Scottish accent you can. Don’t worry about sounding silly! No one has to hear you and the accent doesn’t need to be great. But this may help you interpret the language better if you find you’re struggling.
Are you like me and do you love Scotland—Glasgow especially? Well, the entire book is set in Glasgow. And because the story is told through of eyes of several generations of women, we see Glasgow through generations as well. This is so unique and really helped me see this city I adore in other ways—from the 1940s and 1950s all the way to the Glasgow I know today.
I don’t know a lot of books that accomplish this, so this book is unique in that. If you want to visualize Glasgow—and I mean realistically: with the struggles, hardships, poverty and all—through the decades, Be guid tae yer mammy is great read for that.
As I said, Be guid tae yer mammy isn’t the sort of story I find myself reading, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading it. I honestly had to force myself to stop reading; it was very much a “just one more chapter” book once I got into it.
And I think I got into it so much because it is such a relatable story. Misunderstandings that goes too far. Reflecting on a past of hurt, regret, and loss. Coming to terms with the hard stuff life throws at you. Growing up and overcoming fears. Illness, anxiety, fear of death. These are all things most of us can relate to and that’s what makes the story so moving. As I learned more about the characters, their whole story, how they lived and grew, I felt like I connected to them.
And after more than a year of lockdowns? Well, having stories that remind you of human connection and endurance is a great thing.
From the English/Writing major in me: What took me in was Grae’s writing style. Grae tells this tale through 4 different characters, all with distinct voices—and all either drastically or subtly Scots—and each one does feel unique. This is challenging to do and she’s done it well.
Grae’s skill shines through in her vision to tell this tale while celebrating the Scots language and proves that the leid is not only good for comedic purposes. Scots lives and thrives through the generations—as seen in Be guid tae yer mammy—and has a richness all of its own. I’m so glad to see more Scots being written, shared, and published because Scotland’s unique voice deserves to be celebrated.
The book is due to come out August 2021. If you want more on Be guid tae yer mammy, check out the Unbound page for the book. You can order yourself a digital copy straight from there as well. Check it out also on GoodReads, where you can read other reviews and leave your own as well.