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Shuggie Bain: Winner of the Booker Prize 2020 Hardcover – 6 August 2020

4.5 out of 5 stars 19,784 ratings

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Review

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

Leaves us gutted and marvelling: Life may be short, but it takes forever. ― New York Times

I think it’s the best first book I’ve read in many years. -- Karl Ove Knausgård ― Guardian

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. -- Alex Preston ― Observer

An astonishing portrait, drawn from life, of a society left to die . . . Shuggie Bain has been longlisted for the Booker Prize. In a just world, it would win.Daily Telegraph

Shuggie Bain comes from a deep understanding of the relationship between a child and a substance-abusing parent, showing a world rarely portrayed in literary fiction . . . Admirable and important. -- Sarah Moss ― Guardian

This is a dysfunctional love story . . . between a boy and his mother . . . what makes his book a worthy contender for the Booker is his portrayal of their bond, together with all its perpetual damage. ― Financial Times

Douglas Stuart’s startling Glasgow-set debut novel creates a world of poverty and suffering offset by pure, heart-filling, love . . . It’s a novel that deserves, and will surely often get, a second reading. -- Allan Massie ― Scotsman

Shuggie Bain is a novel that aims for the heart and finds it. -- John Self ― The Times

Tender and unsentimental . . . and the Billy Elliot-ish character of Shuggie . . . leaps off the page. ― Daily Mail

Beautiful and bleak but with enough warmth and optimism to carry the reader through. -- Graham Norton (via Twitter)

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

An outstanding book . . . Magnificently done . . . Wonderful. -- Lee Child ― Sunday Post

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

This heartfelt and harrowing debut novel – which has been compared to the work of Édouard 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 formidable story, lyrically told, about intimacy, family, and love. -- 12 Best Books of 2020 So Far ― ELLE (US)

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 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

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

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 sidewaysRichard Russo

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

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

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)

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

From the Back Cover

‘Beautiful and bleak but with enough warmth and optimism to carry the reader through.’ Graham Norton (on Twitter)

‘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

‘[Shuggie Bain] would be just about unbearable were it not for the author’s astonishing capacity for love . . . The book leaves us gutted and marveling: Life may be short, but it takes forever.’ New York Times

‘A boy's heartbreaking love for his mother . . . as intense and excruciating to read as any novel I have ever held in my hand . . . brilliantly written.’ Newsday

‘A formidable story, lyrically told, about intimacy, family, and love.’ ELLE (US)

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Product details

  • Publisher : Picador (6 August 2020)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 448 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1529019273
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1529019278
  • Reading age : 18 years and up
  • Item Weight : 672 g
  • Dimensions : 16.3 x 4.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Country of Origin : United Kingdom
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19,784 ratings

Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5
19,784 global ratings
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Top reviews from India

Reviewed in India on 16 September 2020
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23 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in India on 1 December 2020
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4.0 out of 5 stars Life in the Shambles
By Singh, R. on 1 December 2020
Even before the shortlist for the Booker was declared, seeing the longlist I already knew this is something that would interest me. I waited patiently for the night the prize was to be announced. Somehow, I knew this book would bag the prize and then I would certainly read it. Predictably, it won and I ordered the book then and there. I began reading the book the morning it arrived and it was, indeed, a read that clings to you and tugs at your heart from the first page. It is the story of a Scottish family managing their lives through economic hardships, substance abuse, physical and emotional violence in the 1980s of Glasgow. Although this book is claimed to be solely the story of Shuggie and his mother, I felt there was more to the story than them only. It was the story of the whole family struggling to remain together, hold each other and save each other from the world in their embrace that they called home. I was moved by the poignant recollection of the author's memory from what he knew of Glasgow and from his mother's own addiction as he grew up. However, I couldn't bring myself to love this novel as I had expected to, especially, given its comparison to 'A Little Life'. There was something about the language that made me take an unexpectedly longer time to finish the novel. Maybe the language did not warm up to me, or maybe Ferrante spoiled me with her prose. I have no complaints with the author as such because it was a well-written book. I could see the incidents in the novel unfold before my eyes very well. I think it is the presence of too many new characters all the time that made me difficult to concentrate on the writing. Nonetheless, the book is certainly an achievement even without the prize, that only adds to its relevance. It painfully captures heartbreaks, hopelessness and hope of a family trying to discover happiness among the dingy neighbourhoods of existence.
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14 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in India on 13 January 2021
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3 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in India on 25 February 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unordinary and Unforgettable!
By Nazarin on 25 February 2021
Shuggie Bain is a masterpiece, an astounding debut which will make your soul desperate and heart ache. Set in the 1981-1992 Glasgow, Stuart's debut novel is a fascinating reading experience, story of a 14 yr old Shuggie Bain and his mother Agnes Bain, so dark and intense, which brilliantly portrays a broken childhood and hopeless love. It includes multiple themes- poverty, abuse, addiction, gender inequality, religion etc.

Shuggie Bain is not a feel good read; it's more like a gothic fiction. The writing style will make you want more of Stuart's works as it's charming, Glasgow dialect and the subtle descriptions of each incident will never fail to take you to the unordinary and unforgettable life of Shuggie.

Shuggie and his love...he loved Agnes so much that the only thing he wanted was to make her normal, to live a normal life with her. And her alcoholism, the author is not directly sharing the physical and mental conditions of an alcoholic, but we can feel the depth of darkness inside her and she considered alcohol as an escape from the physical and mental abuse and her unfulfilled dreams. This novel is a rare one with all it's memorable characters and outspoken realities. It was a highly disturbing, yet heartbreakingly-good read, Shuggie and his unusual, painful life will always stay with you!!
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Reviewed in India on 17 January 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars “Pathos” comes to mind
By Nina Amin on 17 January 2021
What is it to live a life desperately loving a woman who constantly breaks your heart and fails you. The story of Shuggie Bain is easily one of the saddest I’ve ever read. The story of a little boy living with an alcoholic mother. I had to take pauses between reading, because Shuggie’s anxiety and desperation was so palpable. Douglas Stuart, the author says that this book was based on his own life experiences.
I just wanted to hug my own young son a little tighter as I read this incredibly well-written book.
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Reviewed in India on 16 December 2020
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Top reviews from other countries

reggie
3.0 out of 5 stars Made my blood boil
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 August 2020
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1,004 people found this helpful
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X70DEV
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutally brilliant
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 13 October 2020
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126 people found this helpful
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jeannie
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing portrayal
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 13 December 2020
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bettyparry
4.0 out of 5 stars THIS IS NOT A FEELGOOD BOOK.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 24 September 2020
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63 people found this helpful
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A. Hunt
4.0 out of 5 stars Tragic, well written, worth reading BUT with a few reservations...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 October 2020
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