Shuggie Bain

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

As seen:

  • Booker Prize 2020

By Douglas Stuart

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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 Edouard Louis, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, a blistering debut by a brilliant writer with a powerful and important story to tell.


10 Aug 2020


What can I say? This must be my book of the year. Absolutely gripping all the way through. The characters are all so real, so many shades of grey between the good and the bad. Yes, it’s heart-breaking at times but yet never makes you want to stop reading. The book is so nuanced and well-balanced that it never feels preachy, just gives an honest account of how some lives go, and how sometimes your surroundings can seem almost impossible to escape. An incredibly accomplished debut that everyone should read.

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