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Shuggie Bain: Winner of the Booker Prize 2020 Kindle Edition
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WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE
New York Times Bestseller
Finalist for the National Book Award
Finalist for the Kirkus Prize
Shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
Longlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal
Shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Breakthrough Author Award
Named a Best Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times, NPR, TIME, BuzzFeed, 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
"We were bowled over by this first novel, which creates an amazingly intimate, compassionate, gripping portrait of addiction, courage and love. The book gives a vivid glimpse of a marginalized, impoverished community in a bygone era of British history. It's a desperately sad, almost-hopeful examination of family and the destructive powers of desire."--Booker Prize Judges
"This year's breakout debut . . . It has drawn comparisons to D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, and Frank McCourt."--Alexandra Alter, New York Times
"The body--especially the body in pain--blazes on the pages of Shuggie Bain . . . This is the world of Shuggie Bain, a little boy growing up in Glasgow in the 1980s. And this is the world of Agnes Bain, his glamorous, calamitous mother, drinking herself ever so slowly to death. The wonder is how crazily, improbably alive it all is . . . The book would be just about unbearable were it not for the author's astonishing capacity for love. He's lovely, Douglas Stuart, fierce and loving and lovely. He shows us lots of monstrous behavior, but not a single monster--only damage. If he has a sharp eye for brokenness, he is even keener on the inextinguishable flicker of love that remains . . . The book leaves us gutted and marveling: Life may be short, but it takes forever."--Leah Hager Cohen, New York Times Book Review
"A debut novel that reads like a masterpiece."--Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post
"A novel that cracks open the human heart, brings you inside, tears you up, and brings you up, with its episodes of unvarnished love, loss, survival and sorrow."--Scott Simon, NPR's "Weekend Edition"
"Agnes Bain [is] the unforgettable human train wreck at the center of Douglas Stuart's novel Shuggie Bain . . . Titling the novel after Shuggie rather than the woman who dominates him seems like a small gesture of defiance on Mr. Stuart's part . . . Mr. Stuart vividly inhabits the city's singular 'Weegie' dialect and vocabulary . . . It's the obstinate Bain pride that prevents this novel from becoming a wallow in victimhood and gives it its ruined dignity."--Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
"The domestic spaces, the blighted landscape, the meanness of people, the bullying at school, the constant threat of violence, all add up to a picture of misery. Against this, however, there is an undercurrent that becomes more and more powerful, as Stuart, with great subtlety, builds up an aura of tenderness in the relationship between helpless Shuggie and his even more helpless mother . . . By drawing Agnes and Shuggie with so much texture, he makes clear that neither mother nor son can be easily seen as a victim. Instead, they emerge forcefully; they are fully, palpably present."--Colm Tóibín, Bookforum
"Astonishingly good, one of the most moving novels in recent memory."--Hillary Kelly, Los Angeles Times
"The tough portraits of Glaswegian working-class life from William McIlvanney, James Kelman, Alasdair Gray, and Agnes Owens can be felt in Shuggie Bain without either overshadowing or unbalancing the novel . . . Stuart's capacity for allowing wild contradictions to convincingly coexist is also on display in the individual vignettes that comprise the novel, blending the tragic with the funny, the unsparing with the tender, the compassionate with the excruciating. He can even pull off all of them in a single sentence . . . This overwhelmingly vivid novel is not just an accomplished debut. It also feels like a moving act of filial reverence."--James Walton, New York Review of Books
"Rarely does a debut novel establish its world with such sure-footedness, and Stuart's prose is lithe, lyrical, and full of revelatory descriptive insights . . . Reading Shuggie Bain entails a kind of archaeology, sifting through the rubble of the lives presented to find gems of consolation, brief sublime moments when the characters slip the bonds of their hardscrabble existence. That the book is never dismal or maudlin, notwithstanding its subject matter, is down to the buoyant life of its two principal characters, the heart and humanity with which they are described. Douglas Stuart has written a first novel of rare and lasting beauty."--Alex Preston, Guardian
"Douglas Stuart drags us through the 1980s childhood of 'a soft boy in a hard world' in a series of vivid, effective scenes . . . Shuggie Bain is a novel that aims for the heart and finds it. As a novel it's good, as a debut very good, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it progress from Booker longlist to shortlist."--John Self, Times (UK)
"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."--Barbara Lane, San Francisco Chronicle
"Shuggie Bain is Douglas Stuart's first novel, as intense and excruciating to read as any novel I have ever held in my hand . . . This novel is as much about Glasgow as it is about Shuggie and his impossible mother . . . The book's evocative power arises out of the author's talent for conjuring a place, a time, and the texture of emotion, and out of its language which is strewn with a Glaswegian argot sodden with desolation and misery . . . This is a hard, grim book, brilliantly written and, in the end, worth the pain which accompanies reading it."--Katherine A. Powers, Newsday
"With his exquisitely detailed debut novel, Douglas Stuart has given Glasgow something of what James Joyce gave to Dublin. Every city needs a book like Shuggie Bain, one where the powers of description are so strong you can almost smell the chip-fat and pub-smoke steaming from its pages, and hear the particular, localized slang ringing in your ears . . . It turns over the ugly side of humanity to find the softness and the beauty underneath . . . This beauty, against all odds, survives."--Eliza Gearty, Jacobin
"An atmospheric epic set in 1980s working-class Glasgow, Shuggie Bain, a debut novel by Douglas Stuart, focuses on the relationship between a mother and son as she battles alcoholism and he grapples with his sexuality. It's a formidable story, lyrically told, about intimacy, family, and love."--Elle
"A dysfunctional love story--an interdependence whose every attempt to thrive is poisoned whenever a drink is poured--but here, between a boy and his mother. Stuart's debut stands out for its immersion into working-class Glaswegian life, but what makes his book a worthy contender for the Booker is his portrayal of their bond, together with all its perpetual damage."--Maria Crawford, Financial Times
"Magnificent . . . Its richly rendered events will give you a lot to talk about."--O Magazine
"This is a panoramic portrait of both a family and a place, and Stuart steeps us fully in the grim decline of the Thatcher years: cheap booze, closed pits and lives lived on tick . . . Tender and unsentimental--a rare trick--and the Billy Elliot-ish character of Shuggie, when he does take the floor, leaps off the page."--Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail
"Terrifically engrossing . . . A cracking coming-of-age story--a survivor's tale you won't be able to put down."--Anthony Cummins, Metro
"A heartbreaking story about identity, addiction, and abandonment."--TIME
"An instant classic. A novel that takes place during the Thatcher years and, in a way, defines it. A novel that explores the underbelly of Scottish society. A novel that digs through the grit and grime of 1980s Glasgow to reveal a story that is at once touching and gripping. Think D.H. Lawrence. Think James Joyce . . . A literary tour de force."--Washington Independent Review of Books
"Douglas's sharp narrative perspective moves from character to character, depicting each internally and externally with astute grace, giving a complex understanding of the dynamics of the Bain family . . . Shuggie Bain is a master class in depicting the blinding dedications of love and the endless bounds to which people will go to feel in control, to feel better. It hopefully sets the tone for more beautifully devastating works of fiction to follow from Stuart in the future."--Columbia Journal
"Heartfelt and harrowing . . . [A] visceral, emotionally nuanced portrayal of working class Scottish life and its blazingly intimate exploration of a mother-son relationship."--Literary Hub
"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)
"Compulsively readable . . . In exquisite detail, the book describes the devastating dysfunction in Shuggie's family, centering on his mother's alcoholism and his father's infidelities, which are skillfully related from a child's viewpoint . . . As it 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)
"Douglas Stuart's anxious novel is both a tragedy and a survival story. Shuggie is as neglected as Glasgow, but through his mother's demise, he discovers his strength. Shuggie Bain celebrates taking charge of one's own destiny."--Bookpage
"Stuart's harrowing debut follows a family ravaged by addiction in Glasgow during the Thatcher era . . . There are flashes of deep feeling that cut through the darkness . . . Will resonate with readers."--Publishers Weekly
"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, author of Chances Are
"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 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, author of The Unpassing
"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. Stuart is a writer who genuinely loves his characters and makes them unforgettable and touching even when they're at their worst. He's also just a beautiful writer; I kept being reminded of Joyce's Dubliners. I loved this book."--Sandra Newman, author of The Heavens
"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 --This text refers to the paperback edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B082BK5G8X
- Publisher : Picador (25 February 2020)
- Language: : English
- File size : 1200 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 406 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 37 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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As one who grew up on the west of Scotland and had worked in Glasgow, it was a delight to be able to read something written primarily in unashamed Glaswegian, (though a few Americanisms here and there, such as aluminum and ladybugs, have found their way into this masterpiece of Scottish angst). For those who grew up in Scotland’s industrial west in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, a lot of the story’s content will painfully cut to the bone, and cause unwelcome flashbacks.
I admit to being like one of those rubberneckers that ghoulishly gawk at a serious car smash, causing traffic to backup for miles behind them. I recoiled at much of the book’s subject matter, but couldn’t help but keep on reading to see what terrible thing would happen around the next bend.
I think the following line sums up the whole book: “Shuggie felt the noodles in his belly turn into worms.”
Stuart is the master of metaphor. The book is full of symbolism, (especially in its final chapter). Like losing your dinner money doon the stank, Stuart’s visually descriptive language always lends itself to embellishing the dank, dour, and dreich subject matter with the added notion of a sense of hopelessness.
The dark and damp subterranean subject of the entrapment of alcoholism in social housing schemes is brilliantly depicted by Stuart’s painful but skillful use of the (tattooist’s) pen.
A friend described the book as brutal. I agree. It is full of foul language and gross sexual description and innuendo. It’s not for the fainthearted.
Top reviews from other countries
I do have one big gripe with this book and it is the way he has portrayed the mining community
I was brought up in a mining community before during and after the closure of the pits by Thatcher and her toxic government
The author portrays the miners as heartless dirty useless drunkards and the women as feckless loveless hags The children run around as feral animals covered in filth He sees the community as people with no pride in themselves.
He describes a scene where a woman has just found out her husband has cheated on her ,she is outside and rips her skirt in distress to reveal she has no underwear on! as if to suggest she is such a slob she can't be bothered to cover her dignity. Shame on him for his portrayal of these women
The mining community I know are proud hard working resourceful people who look after each other Who are intelligent and quick witted especially when it comes to politics
Gardens are their pride, my family and neighbours gardens had blossoming flower beds in the front and an array of vegetables in the back garden. They also tended allotments. We were all well feed with an abundance of healthy fresh fruit and vegetables not just boiled cabbage.
We were all spotlessly clean as well due to the diligence of the women. Miners working in thick black coal dust day in day out didn't give in to it, they hated it. If you met a miner after work or on his days off you would be hard pressed to find a more clean spotlessly tidy man and mums made sure their families were the same . Ah but not according to the author They were all filthy stoor covered inbreds(everyone is a cousin )
with no pride in how they dressed.
I recently read an interview he gave describing his upbringing and I am happy hes has done so well however
It has made me very angry that this book will be read world wide and he has given the impression that this is how we lived.
Sighthill looked like utopia compared to Pit head I am not impressed.
Some books never leave you. Once read, they sit in the background of your mind, resurfacing whenever life confronts you with the story's subject matter.
In the same vein as Yanagihara's A Little Life (also shortlisted for the Booker Prize), Shuggie Bain is brutal to the point of having to put the book down at times. This is not a light or easy read, it is a journey into the lives of people broken by their circumstances and upbringing, yet filled with unfiltered love. You will cry with sadness, anger, and despair.
I lived just outside Glasgow at the end of the time in which this book was set. My ex-wife was equal to Shuggie's mother Agnes in her descent into alcoholism and have children who lived through her worst excesses. No other book or film I have seen or read has portrayed alcoholism more accurately than this one. It is stark. It is painful to witness. It is reality.
My time in Scotland helped me hugely with this book. I am sure many will struggle with the language and vocabulary used. In an interview, the author said that both he and the publishers, for reasons of authenticity, wanted to keep the Glaswegian slang and vocabulary.
This book is not just a story of the child and his alcoholic mother, it is a documentary of the poverty and deprivation in Glasgow in the 1980s. It is a page-turner and is beautifully crafted by the author. A book that could and should win the Mann Booker. It is a future classic.
Read this book, but pick your time, because it will affect you.
I really hope a sequel is planned. The next stage of Shuggie's life will have much to tell. I for one would love to share in his journey into adulthood.
Sometimes the ties that bind are very loose and Catherine is the first to jump ship, marry young and move to South Africa. The ties that bind Leek are tighter and he hangs on for a few more years but eventually leaves as he realizes he will only sink with his mother. The ties between Shuggie and his mother are super-glued and he stays to the bitter end. The 2 main characters are Shuggie and Agnes where their relationship is incredibly intense and wonderfully close. However you worry that the ending will be horrific and they both go down the tubes as her life is an alcoholic, green, smoky haze. She attracts other alcoholics and they all help each other downwards in a never-ending spiral of hangovers and desperation.
Shuggie is the youngest and has to babysit his mother because of the state she’s in. He is brutally bullied by the other kids as he’s obviously effeminate and gay. The bullying by the adults is more subtle and sophisticated towards him. He has to grow up quickly as he knows he has to if he wants to eat. The lengths he goes to to keep his mother afloat are incredible to observe. Shuggie loves his football and through this we see a city divided on fanatical, religious lines of Catholic v Protestant. He tries desperately hard to be “normal” but realizes he can never be. You feel for him as you realize he’s fighting a losing battle. They survive by stealing the money out of their meters.
Shuggie has lots of “uncles” who he knows are abusers of his mother. They come to the house with plastic bags of booze to drink and sleep with Agnes. The life is one of smoking, drinking and arguing. The author captures the life of a little boy growing up perfectly, and all the gross things one has to go through in that life. The book is very well written and the problem Stuart now has is the second “album”. Can he write a book as good as this again? This is obviously a semi-autobiographical book; can he rise to the challenge of doing another novel as good as this. I certainly hope so.
I have read many Booker shortlisted novels since G in the 70s. Some winners are better than this, some not as good, in other words, it would be a worthy winner. Obviously I may be wrong but I get the feeling it will come in second.
I don’t belong to a book group, but I will be recommending Shuggie Bain to everyone I know who does!