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Shuggie Bain

by Douglas Stuart

Debuts Literary Fiction Sharing Diverse Voices

LoveReading View on Shuggie Bain

A heart-breaking, unforgettable and incredible story that will stay with you long after you've finished it. It is difficult to believe it's a debut as you read the travails of young Shuggie, his alcoholic mother Agnes and see inside their dysfunctional family life in 1980s working-class Glasgow. It's a powerful story with unflinching honesty that will no doubt make you cry. It shows the power of love and despite the bleak subject matter, it's incredibly tender, hopeful and oh so readable. It's a triumph.

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Shuggie Bain Synopsis

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 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 Edouard Louis, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, a blistering debut by a brilliant writer with a powerful and important story to tell.

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Shuggie Bain Press Reviews

A brilliant, brutal story of a Glasgow childhood . . . A heartbreaking novel, a book both beautiful and brutal . . . All that grief and sadness and misery has been turned into something tough, tender and beautifully sad. - The Times

Compulsively readable... As [the novel] beautifully and shockingly illustrates how Shuggie ends up alone, this novel offers a testament to the indomitable human spirit. Very highly recommended -- Library Journal starred review

Glasgow, Scotland, in the 1980s is the backdrop for this story of the fraught bond between a young boy and his mother. -- 'The 22 Best Books to Read This Winter' - Vogue (US)

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, New York Times-bestselling author of Boy Erased

A dark shining work. Raw, formidable, bursting with tenderness and frailty. The effect is remarkable, it will make you cry. -- Karl Geary, author of Montpelier Parade

There's no way to fake the life experience that forms the bedrock of Douglas Stuart's wonderful Shuggie Bain. No way to fake the talent either. Shuggie will knock you sideways - Richard Russo

Shuggie Bain is an intimate and frighteningly acute exploration of a mother-son relationship and a masterful portrait of alcoholism in Scottish working class life, rendered with old-school lyrical realism . . . I kept being reminded of Joyce's Dubliners. -- Sandra Newman, author of The Heavens

A rare and haunting ode to 1980s Glasgow and its struggling communities, Shuggie Bain tells the story of a collapsing family that is lashed together by love alone. Douglas Stuart writes with startling, searing intimacy. I fell hard for these characters; when they have nothing left, they cling maddeningly-irresistibly-to humor, pride and hope - Chia-Chia Lin

The body - especially the body in pain - blazes on the pages of Shuggie Bain . . . The book would be just about unbearable were it not for the author's astonishing capacity for love . . . The book leaves us gutted and marvelling: Life may be short, but it takes forever. - New York Times

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... Readers may get through the whole novel without breaking down-then read the first sentence of the acknowledgements and lose it. The emotional truth embodied here will crack you open. You will never forget Shuggie Bain. Scene by scene, this book is a masterpiece. -- Kirkus Reviews starred review

A formidable story, lyrically told, about intimacy, family, and love. -- 12 Best Books of 2020 So Far - ELLE (US)

This heartfelt and harrowing debut novel - which has been compared to the work of Edouard Louis, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, and which Kirkus has already called a masterpiece . . . is rightly being heralded for its visceral, emotionally nuanced portrayal of working class Scottish life and its blazingly intimate exploration of a mother-son relationship. - LitHub

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

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) 

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781529019292
Publication date: 15/04/2021
Publisher: Picador an imprint of Pan Macmillan
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781529019278
Publication date: 25/11/2020
Publisher: Picador an imprint of Pan Macmillan
Format: Hardback

ISBN: 9781529019315
Publication date: 20/02/2020
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Format: Audiobook

Book Information

ISBN: 9781529019292
Publication date: 15th April 2021
Author: Douglas Stuart
Publisher: Picador an imprint of Pan Macmillan
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 400 pages
Genres: Debuts, Literary Fiction, Diverse Voices,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),

About Douglas Stuart

Douglas Stuart was born and raised in Glasgow. After graduating from the Royal College of Art in London, he moved to New York, where he began a career in fashion design. Shuggie Bain is his first novel.

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