Shuggie Bain

Douglas Stuart

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20 February 2020
9781529019315
1050 minutes
Angus King
Synopsis

An Observer 'Best Debut Novelist of 2020'

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.

Beautiful and bleak but with enough warmth and optimism to carry the reader through.

Graham Norton (via Twitter)

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

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