Shuggie Bain: A Novel (Booker Prize Winner) (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Plunge into the grit and gloom of 1980s Glasgow and find yourself in the derelict public housing inhabited by Shuggie, a young "wean" struggling to please his Mammy and protect her from her relentless yen for "the drink," all while scrambling to escape the bullies who call him "a poof." This evocative novel is as dark as the soot-covered miners scraping by in Thatcher's Scotland and as bleak as the nation's mucky moors. Glimmers of hope are as rare as the glimmer of an aluminum Special Brew can is common. Yet, Shuggie's world will pull you back by the heartstrings should you try to leave; this carefully-crafted debut commands you to feel, and as much as it might break you, you will emerge from this novel's depths emancipated and enlightened.

— Luisa



Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh "Shuggie" Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher's policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city's notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings.

Shuggie's mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie's guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings. She dreams of a house with its own front door while she flicks through the pages of the Freemans catalogue, ordering a little happiness on credit, anything to brighten up her grey life. Married to a philandering taxi-driver husband, Agnes keeps her pride by looking good--her beehive, make-up, and pearly-white false teeth offer a glamorous image of a Glaswegian Elizabeth Taylor. But under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink, and she drains away the lion's share of each week's benefits--all the family has to live on--on cans of extra-strong lager hidden in handbags and poured into tea mugs. Agnes's older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to care for her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. Shuggie is meanwhile struggling to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that he is "no right," a boy with a secret that all but him can see. Agnes is supportive of her son, but her addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her--even her beloved Shuggie.

A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction. Recalling the work of douard Louis, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist who has a powerful and important story to tell.

About the Author

Douglas Stuart was born and raised in Glasgow. After graduating from the Royal College of Art in London, he moved to New York City, where he began a career in fashion design. Shuggie Bain is his first novel. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker and Literary Hub.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780802148506
ISBN-10: 0802148506
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: October 13th, 2020
Pages: 448
Language: English

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