WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE 2020
WINNER OF 'BOOK OF THE YEAR' AT THE BRITISH BOOK AWARDS 2021
WINNER OF 'DEBUT OF THE YEAR' AT THE BRITISH BOOK AWARDS 2021
SHORTLISTED FOR THE US NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION 2020
LONGLISTED FOR ABIA INTERNATIONAL BOOK OF THE YEAR 2021
'An amazingly intimate, compassionate, gripping portrait of addiction, courage and love' The Booker Prize Judges
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, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist with a powerful and important story to tell.
PRAISE FOR SHUGGIE BAIN
'A debut novel that reads like a masterpiece, Shuggie Bain gives voice to the kind of helpless, hopeless love that children can feel toward broken parents.' - Washington Post
'The way Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting carved a permanent place in our heads and hearts for the junkies of late-1980s Edinburgh, the language, imagery, and story of fashion designer Stuart's debut novel apotheosizes the life of the Bain family of Glasgow . . . The emotional truth embodied here will crack you open. You will never forget Shuggie Bain. Scene by scene, this book is a masterpiece.' - Kirkus Review (starred review)
'It's a formidable story, lyrically told, about intimacy, family, and love.' - Elle
'Magnificent . . . Its richly rendered events will give you a lot to talk about.' - O, the Oprah Magazine
'A boy's heartbreaking love for his mother . . . as intense and excruciating to read as any novel I have ever held in my hand . . . The book's evocative power arises out of the author's talent for conjuring a place, a time, and the texture of emotion . . . brilliantly written.' - Newsday
'Beautiful and bleak but with enough warmth and optimism to carry the reader through.' Graham Norton (via Twitter)
'Not only does [Stuart] clearly know his characters, he clearly loves them . . . Stuart describes their life with compassion and a keen ear for language . . . Such is Stuart's talent that this painful, sometimes excruciating story is often quite beautiful.' - San Francisco Chronicle
'Every now and then a novel comes along that feels necessary and inevitable. I'll never forget Shuggie and Agnes or the incredibly detailed Glasgow they inhabit. This is the rare contemporary novel that reads like an instant classic. I'll be thinking and talking about Shuggie Bain-and teaching it-for quite some time.' Garrard Conley, author of Boy Erased
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Scottish-American author Douglas Stuart’s Booker Prize-winning novel is an extraordinary debut. Inspired by his own mother’s battle with addiction, Stuart takes us to Glasgow in 1981 where poverty and addiction grip the city. Our eponymous hero is the youngest son of Agnes Bain—an alcoholic mother-of-three left by her violent second husband in an impoverished mining town. While Shuggie’s older siblings eventually secure their exits through marriage and art, he is determined to save his mother and secure better futures for them both. Stuart captures the harshest realities of Thatcher-era Britain with an intensity you can almost smell and taste and he writes about the pain of addiction and sexual prejudices with a rawness that is at times unsettling. But this book is proof that there’s often joy to be found in even the most hopeless of places. Shuggie was one of 2020’s most unforgettable literary characters: his pride, self-worth, snootiness, humour and courage leaping from each page.
Stuart's harrowing debut follows a family ravaged by addiction in Glasgow during the Thatcher era. Agnes Bain yearns to move Shug, her taxi-driving, "selfish animal" of a second husband, and three children out of the tiny apartment they share with her parents in Glasgow in 1981. Shug secures them a council flat, but when they arrive he leaves them in a flurry of violence, blaming Agnes's drinking. While Agnes's daughter, Catherine, escapes the misery of Agnes's alcoholism and the family's extreme poverty by finding a husband, and her older son, Leek, retreats into making art, Hugh (nicknamed "Shuggie" after his absent father) assumes responsibility for Agnes's safety and happiness. As the years pass, Shuggie suffers cruelty over his effeminate personality and endures sexual violence. He eventually accepts that he's gay; meanwhile, Agnes finds some hope by entering A.A., landing a job, and dating another taxi driver named Eugene, but she later backslides. As Shuggie and his mother attempt to improve their lives, they are bound not just by one another but also to the U.K.'s dire economic conditions. While the languid pace could have benefited from condensing, there are flashes of deep feeling that cut through the darkness. This bleak if overlong book will resonate with readers.)
Raw, ugly and beautiful.
One of those stories that hits you in the face and changes you at the core.
A Modern Tragedy
Beautifully written but tragically sad
A tale of struggle street in Glasgow so much poverty and degradation surrounding a family but also so much love from a boy trying to hold them altogether
Harsh and tender, bitter and callously cruel. Despite clearly characterising the weak, blunt and dark aspects of human nature, I found that I couldn’t stop reading every word!