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Book Review: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologies

Our narrator is Elsa, aged nearly eight. All nearly-eight-year-olds need a superhero and Elsa's is her eccentric grandmother, who tells elaborate fairy tales to distract her from difficult times at school and at home. But before we get too attached, we must brace ourselves for the loss of Granny who passes away from cancer in the early chapters - leaving Elsa with an important mission of letters to deliver. Granny needs to send her regards and apologies.

Devastated Elsa embarks on her mission, collecting sidekicks along the way. Like in all good fairy tales, the scariest individuals often turn out to be the very best friends and protectors. I don't want to give too much away, so you'll have to read the book to find out how Granny's tales have been preparing Elsa for the complexities of life in her 'soon-to-be-leaseholders-association' block of flats.

I enjoyed the playfulness of the story, and would recommend it to readers of Jonas Jonasson's books The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, and The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden.

However, a word of warning! I nearly lost faith in the book right at the end because of a silly gimmick in the writing, which may be down to a failure in translation (I'm trying to give it the benefit of the doubt). Throughout the novel, Granny is characterised as scatty and impulsive, although she was a renowned surgeon who travelled to war zones and rescued children throughout her career. I know the cliche about doctors having bad handwriting, but Elsa is very exact about her grammar and often criticises Granny's spelling. However, in Granny's final letter to Elsa, the first line reads "I'm sorry I had to dye."

No, no, no! However scatty, a strong woman who has spent her life as a surgeon would not misspell die. This jerks the reader out of the story in frustration, and is an example of why I think you have to be so careful when putting any kind of colloquialism, dialect gimmick, or character speech tag in a text. Of course a doctor can spell die. As I mentioned, this could be a translation issue as the original novel was in Swedish, before being translated to English in 2015. However, the translator should, in my opinion, have been more sensitive to this kind of nuance.

But I mustn't let this detract too much from an enjoyable read that has the unusual viewpoint of a child narrating an adult novel. There is a lot of clever and intricate plot detail here, intertwining Granny's fairytale 'Land Of Almost Awake' with the real world. Charming and innocent, would recommend.


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