Shuggie Bain

Shuggie Bain


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2020 Booker Prize



"Glasgow in the 80’s is grim. Mines are closing, shipyards are shrinking, only unemployment is rising as is poverty, addiction and despair.


Against this isolating backdrop Shuggie is trying to navigate life in a crippled mining village on the outskirts of Glasgow.  Shuggie knows he is different and what is worse so does everyone else. “He’s no right” is a constant refrain throughout. As Shuggie grows his family shrinks until he is left alone with his much loved alcoholic mother Agnes. Agnes is beautiful, proud and vain, in a grey Pithead she stands out just as much as her son. Shuggie Bain is their story.

This isn’t an easy book to read. The characters are so well drawn their anger, and their wanting is tangible. Women in particular are vividly drawn. The Language is physical, words are spat and accusations land like punches - but the dialogue is also rhythmic. The contrast kept me off kilter and kept me reading. Yes it is about addiction, abuse and neglect - a portrait of a city and communities ravaged by economic forces, but it is also poignant, tender and so very human.

Shuggie had my heart from page one and held it until the last page – even when I wanted to run. Persevere, you won’t regret it."


Other Reviews:


 '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 


'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)


'It's a formidable story, lyrically told, about intimacy, family, and love.' Elle 'Magnificent . . . Its richly rendered events will give you a lot to talk about.' O, the Oprah Magazine 


'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) '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.' San Francisco Chronicle 


'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, author of Boy Erased