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Summary

Winner of the Booker Prize 2020

Winner of 'Book of the Year' at the British Book Awards 2021

Winner of 'Debut of the Year' at the British Book Awards 2021

Shortlisted for the US National Book Award for Fiction 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.

©2020 Douglas Stuart (P)2020 Macmillan Publishers International Ltd

Critic reviews

"Douglas Stuart has written a first novel of rare and lasting beauty." (Observer)

"We were bowled over by this first novel, which creates an amazingly intimate, compassionate, gripping portrait of addiction, courage and love." (The judges of the Booker Prize)

What listeners say about Shuggie Bain

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Utter respect

Shuggie Bain is no misery memoir, no chance! Here is a portrayal of humanity without sentiment from a time in British history that has had far reaching consequences. Douglas Stuart has rendered in words a story that is both moving and gut-wrenchingly sobering. And yet, by the end of it the feeling one is left with is not depressing bleakness, but utter respect for this fine balance of harsh reality, innate wisdom, and hope. Angus King brings Shuggie Bain to life and I’m deeply grateful to him for this as I would have liked to absorb the details in print instead of depending on audio due to deteriorating sight. This experience will remain with me for a long time.

79 people found this helpful

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Wonderful read

Funny, sad, thought provoking but entirely enjoyable. Would highly recommend one of the most entertaining reads in a long time

51 people found this helpful

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Poor lives but rich story

Story full of recognisable characters in the 70s & 80s. So wanted a fairytale ending but real life gets in the way. Funny & sad - great narrative.

32 people found this helpful

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Wonderful Debut Novel

A wonderful atmospheric book with rich characters who suck you into Shuggie’s world in the less savoury areas of Glasgow in the 1980s. I enjoyed it so much and was sad to reach the end as I wanted to know what Shuggie made of his life afterwards. This is Mr Stuart’s first book so I’ll just have to wait for the next one!

28 people found this helpful

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Tragic and funny

Probably one of the most tragic books I’ve read/listened to for ages.

Poor Agnes drinking herself to oblivion to be rid of her own life’s bitter disappointments; and poor Shuggie taking on the responsibility of trying to save her.

Touching, relevant, outright laughable in places, raw, and emotional, a memory of Thatcher’s harsh legacy in Scotland.

I loved it and was so disappointed when it ended.

22 people found this helpful

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Beautifully atmospheric

The scene is set so beautifully and the characters brought to life so realistically, however, I found this book a tad repetitive and a bit depressing. I loved the way the story was told but found some of the storylines tales off when I wanted and expected more.
It is fabulously read and very sad for the circumstances but I just felt it was at times a bit lacking.

16 people found this helpful

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Dazzling

Sad but wonderful . Outstanding narration .l am obliged to keep writing as l am instructed that a review requires fifteen words .

14 people found this helpful

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Narrator

has given all the women silly, funny voices- caricatures. The physical descriptions of the women by the author are mostly grotesque, too. So not a very female-centric book. But little Shuggie is an appealing little hero and story is moving.

14 people found this helpful

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Heart breaking story.

Hard hitting and very sad but such a good performance and story, especially if you or someone you know has had to live a life with an alcoholic

13 people found this helpful

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Touching funny and sad

Well worth a read. This book looks into a harsh life through innocent eyes. A family dissolved.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Jennifer Lawson
  • 06-03-21

Wonderful

What a brilliant book. Rich descriptive language. Beautifully written. Narration was superb. I didn’t want the book to finish.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mrs Camden
  • 06-02-21

Much too long

Powerful story, but it would have benefited from a good editor- should have been cut down to half its length.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Erika Martin
  • 08-09-21

Highly recommended

Wonderful and thought provoking.
Read by Angus King who is, as always, a perfect narrator.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 31-08-21

Heartbreaking, agonizing and tragic

Highly recommended. The book is uncomfortably thought provoking and beautiful. This story feels so honest and the characters are so flawed yet easy to love.

The narrator was absolutely brilliant and added to the enjoyment of this book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Monika Sznajder
  • 11-08-21

Excellent in all ways

The narrator rocks! Just as all the rest, the story, the characters, you name it!

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  • hac
  • 07-07-21

Outstanding

One of the best books I have ever read. I flipped between reading the book and listening to the audible version and the narrator was equally outstanding. An excellent performance.

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  • Deema
  • 06-04-21

One that will stay with me...

Descriptions fabulous, but the dialogue is the star and all the better on audio, such a talented actor bringing the story to life, a story of love, abuse, poverty, reality..

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-01-21

Beautiful, gut wrenching and hopeful.

Engages every emotion, a story of small victories in amongst giant sadness. A must listen!

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  • fiona
  • 02-12-20

Outstanding

Takes the reader back to a time and place. Fabulously written, funny, hopeful and profound.
A worthy winner a must read!