It is 1981. Glasgow is dying and good families must grift to survive.
Agnes Bain has always expected more from life. She dreams of greater things: a house with its own front door and a life bought and paid for outright (like her perfect, but false, teeth). But Agnes is abandoned by her philandering husband, and soon she and her three children find themselves trapped in a decimated mining town. As she descends deeper into drink, the children try their best to save her, yet one by one they must abandon her to save themselves. It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest.
Shuggie is different. Fastidious and fussy, he shares his mother’s sense of snobbish propriety. The miners’ children pick on him and adults condemn him as no’ right.
But Shuggie believes that if he tries his hardest, he can be normal like the other boys and help his mother escape this hopeless place.
Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain lays bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride. A counterpart to the privileged Thatcher-era London of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, it also recalls the work of Édouard Louis, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, a blistering debut by a brilliant writer with a powerful and important story to tell.
It’s not often that I’m desperate to read the Booker Prize winner, but I’ve had this book since Christmas! However, my book list got in the way so it was definitely one I was going to read during my month’s rest – and it was worth the wait!
Shuggie Bain is a book which got under my skin, and then some. It’s a heart-wrenching story of poverty, addiction, love and pride which will left me quite in awe of the story telling of Douglas Stuart. It’s no surprise that this debut novel won a major literary prize. The most heart-breaking thing about it is the reality of it all; it’s raw, it’s honest and it’s not a tale to be forgotten. I recently heard that a second novel is on it’s way and I want to make sure I read it. Gobsmackingly good, highly recommended and most definitely a five star read.
I purchased this novel – actually, I bought two; a hardback copy at Christmas which my hands couldn’t cope with and a kindle edition in July. This is – as always – my honest, original and unbiased review.
Tags: literary fiction, urban fiction, LGBTQ
- Format: ebook, paperback, hardcover, audiobook
- Size: 411 pages
- Publisher: Picador
- Publication Date: 20 February 2020
- Book Links:
Douglas Stuart is a Scottish – American author. His debut novel, Shuggie Bain, won the Booker Prize. It is published by Grove Atlantic in the US and Picador in the UK, and is to be translated into thirty-four languages.
He wrote Shuggie Bain over a ten year period and is currently at work on his second novel, to be published in 2022.
His short stories, Found Wanting, and The Englishman, were published in The New Yorker magazine. His essay, Poverty, Anxiety, and Gender in Scottish Working-Class Literature was published by Lit Hub.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he has an MA from the Royal College of Art in London and since 2000 he has lived and worked in New York City.
- Website: https://www.douglasdstuart.com/
- Twitter: @Doug_D_Stuart
- Instagram: @douglas_stuart