Shuggie Bain

By Douglas Stuart Pages: 430 Published: 2020

The book: This is the story of Shuggie Bain, a young boy growing up on an impoverished council estate in Glasgow. Shuggie has an alcoholic mother and feels as if he does not fit in anywhere. The novel follows Shuggie growing up as he tries to come to terms with who he is and navigate the hardscrabble world in which he lives. 

You might like it because: Stuart’s writing is beautiful. His descriptions of working-class life in 1980s Glasgow are hard hitting. He writes about his characters with incredible empathy, which makes them seem very real and human to the reader. 

What did other people say? 
“We were bowled over by this first novel, which creates an amazingly intimate, compassionate, gripping portrait of addiction, courage and love.” – Booker Prize Judges

“You will never forget Shuggie Bain. Scene by scene, this book is a masterpiece.” – Kirkus Reviews

Awards & Recognition
Winner of the Booker Prize 2020
Winner of the British Book Awards Fiction Debut of the Year 2020
Finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction
Finalist for the Pen Hemmingway Award
Finalist for the LAMBDA Award for gay fiction
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction 
Named a Best Book of the Year by the Los Angeles TimesNPRTIMEBuzzFeed, the Economist, the Times (UK), the Independent (UK), the Daily Telegraph (UK), Barnes & Noble, Kirkus Reviews, the New York Public Library, the Chicago Public Library, and the Washington Independent Review of Books

How quickly will you get into the book? There’s a level of mundaneness in Shuggie’s life. The first chapter describes some of this, so for me it was a slow build. Chapter two (page 18), where we meet Shuggie’s mother, is when things get a lot more interesting. I was hooked and had to read on. 

You might not like it because: For some readers there may just be too much misery and hardship. 

What might you read next?
You could read Young Mungo, Douglas Stuart’s follow-up to Shuggie Bain

Or, read about another fictional Scottish family in The Crow Road by Iain Banks. It begins with one of my favorite opening lines of any novel: “It was the day my grandmother exploded.”

Alternatively, escape Scotland completely but stick with a family theme and read The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, which begins in New York City’s Lower East Side and follows the lives of four siblings. 

© Book Curious 2023