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Shuggie Bain: A Novel (Booker Prize Winner) By Douglas Stuart Cover Image

Shuggie Bain: A Novel (Booker Prize Winner) (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews


When you are awestruck, how do you put it into words? Douglas Stuart’s debut novel Shuggie Bain reads like a classic masterpiece, and the main protagonist Hugh Shuggie Bain is one of those unforgettable characters, well on his way to become a household name such as David Copperfield or Holden Caulfield. Shuggi is Agnes Bain’s youngest child, two older siblings gone because of Agnes’ alcoholism and neglect, and their father’s infidelity. The novel takes place in1980s and 1990s Glasgow, Scotland, on the river Clyde, a poverty stricken city during Margaret Thatcher presidency, its abandoned railroads and shipworks resembling “rotted dinosaurs.”  In that deprived, desperate world, what shines is Shuggie’s love and devotion for his Elizabeth Taylor look-alike mother, his desire to help Agnes overcome her addiction. At the same time, while caring for his mother, young Shuggie confronts his own sexuality, loneliness, bullying at school, and hunger at home. I don’t remember rooting so much for a character in a book, like I did for Shuggie, whose innocence and capacity for forgiveness illuminates the darkness of human suffering. Dear Shuggie, I already miss your pure, sweet heart, and sincerely hope Stuart Douglas writes a sequel to this extraordinary book. --Aggie

— From This is Why I Read - Aggie’s Monthly Picks



A stunning debut novel by a masterful writer telling the heartwrenching story of a young boy and his alcoholic mother, whose love is only matched by her pride.

Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh "Shuggie" Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher's policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city's notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings.

Shuggie's mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie's guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings. She dreams of a house with its own front door while she flicks through the pages of the Freemans catalogue, ordering a little happiness on credit, anything to brighten up her grey life. Married to a philandering taxi-driver husband, Agnes keeps her pride by looking good--her beehive, make-up, and pearly-white false teeth offer a glamorous image of a Glaswegian Elizabeth Taylor. But under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink, and she drains away the lion's share of each week's benefits--all the family has to live on--on cans of extra-strong lager hidden in handbags and poured into tea mugs. Agnes's older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to care for her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. Shuggie is meanwhile struggling to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that he is "no right," a boy with a secret that all but him can see. Agnes is supportive of her son, but her addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her--even her beloved Shuggie.

A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction. Recalling the work of douard Louis, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist who has a powerful and important story to tell.

About the Author

DOUGLAS STUART was born and raised in Glasgow. After graduating from the Royal College of Art in London, he moved to New York City, where he began a career in fashion design. Shuggie Bain is his first novel. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker and Literary Hub.