Summary: Meg tells the story of growing up in a poor family in two of the "black spots" of Glasgow: Blackhill and Drumchapel. It's a delightful, if sad, memoir, telling of the joys and sorrows of a large, working-class family. When Meg's favourite aunt Peggy (of the title) died suddenly at age 36, when Meg was 11, life as Meg knew it came to an end as well as she suddenly had to take care of her bereaved mother, and as a coping mechanism, the extended family ceased to gather together as they had always done. Meg was suddenly alone, with no help for coping with her own grief. It was not until her own adulthood that she learned what had happened to her aunt and why the family was so unable to move through normal stages of grief.
This is one of my favourite books ever. I started to grab a recent read for today's review, then decided that I would rather go back in my own reading history and share this book with you; as far as I know, it's not widely known outside of Scotland. And more's the pity, because Ms. Henderson is a fabulous writer. And that's one of the reasons I like the book so much; it's so well-written that it's hard to find anything not to like about it. Another plus is that Ms. Henderson knew from a very early age that she wanted to be a writer, and reading about her journey from a child who wrote to a well-known Scottish journalist was a treat.
In terms of my own history with the book: It really filled in some gaps of Glasgow life for me. I don't think it's the purpose of the book to showcase Glasgow, in fact Ms. Henderson doesn't shrink from hitting the low points of Glaswegian life, but it's clear she loves her native city. And so when I read the book for the first time (in 1999, when I lived in Glasgow), it was a combination of "Aha!" moments as she explained something I hadn't even realised I didn't understand, and raising questions so I'd know what to look up. I've spent a lot of hours with a map of Glasgow, looking for the places where she lived and played. This book did that for me so well that I've often recommended it to other Americans living in Glasgow, in the hopes that it would fill some gaps for them as well.
Some bits of the book might well be called social commentary, as Ms. Henderson describes the reality of being poor in mid-20th century Glasgow. Many things that she has to say about the keeping the poor in their poverty, or labeling the poor and the lawbreaking in one basket, then dumping them all into the same area so "at least we'd know where they were" are no less applicable even today.
I could go on and on praising this book, but I'll spare you. As I said, it's one of my favourites, and well worth your time if you can get your hands on it!