4 out of 4 stars
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Granny’s Stories is an autobiography of the highlights of the life and travels of Margaret Henderson, who, although she’s not famous, she’s encountered many extraordinary people in her life. The book doesn’t cover many details of her childhood in Scotland, except when she writes about the life of “Big Duncan” (her father) and memories from 1941. The book is mostly focused on the people she met and adventures she had while traveling abroad.
The book is organized first by time and place, with a series of chapters being about life in Berlin 1955-1957, or experiences in Zanzibar 1990-1992, for example. Then individual chapters are usually focused on different people who she encountered and some experiences they had together, and anything she’s been able to find about what’s become of their lives. I liked this creative approach to the autobiography because the author is sharing interesting experiences and people, rather than writing a self-glorifying book about just about her own accomplishments.
While the book focuses mostly on other people she’s encountered, it’s clear that Margaret Henderson herself has lived a very rich and interesting life that many young people today could envy or aspire to. As her life wasn’t simply touristic travels, hopping quickly from one place to the next, I was impressed that she always managed to find or build a community around herself, rather than falling into mopey isolation like some ex-patriots are prone to do.
I give the book four out of four stars because I genuinely enjoyed reading it and I think others would as well. Reading it felt like actually sitting with a granny and hearing her stories. There were good descriptions, but not so much description that you feel like you’re reading poetry about landscapes, as some travel writing tends to be. I also appreciated how the author would wrap up each chapter simply, without trying to fluff up every story with a moral or an inspirational quote.
If there’s one thing that I could ask for, it would be for the author to have included a brief note about what was going on politically/historically in each time and place she wrote about. That would’ve helped me because I don’t hold a clear timeline of world history in my brain, and a note from her would’ve cured my curiosity faster than looking to Google for answers. But I know that many readers know history better than I, and the lack of given information didn’t detract from her stories, so I can’t deduct a star for that reason.
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