Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain has been named winner of the 2020 Booker Prize for Fiction as the culmination of a star-studded ‘ceremony without walls’ from London’s Roundhouse.
The ceremony was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, BBC iPlayer and BBC Arts Digital. It was hosted by BBC Radio 4’s John Wilson and included contributions from HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, President Obama, and three former Booker Prize winners: Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo.
Shuggie Bain is Stuart’s first novel. Based on his own childhood, it is a searing account of a young boy growing up in Thatcher’s Glasgow of the 1980s, with a mother who is battling addiction. Stuart, 44, dedicated the book to his own mother, who died of alcoholism when he was 16. After graduating from the Royal College of Art, he moved to New York to start a career in fashion design, working for brands including Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Gap. He started writing in his spare time a decade ago. His work has since appeared in LitHub and in The New Yorker, which has published two of his short stories this year.
Stuart said in an interview for The Booker Prize website that the 1994 Booker winner How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman changed his life because it was one of the first times he had seen his people and dialect on the page. He is currently finishing his second novel, Loch Awe, also set in Glasgow.
Margaret Busby, 2020 chair of judges, editor, literary critic and former publisher, comments:
“Shuggie Bain is destined to be a classic — a moving, immersive and nuanced portrait of a tight-knit social world, its people and its values. The heart-wrenching story tells of the unconditional love between Agnes Bain — set on a descent into alcoholism by the tough circumstances life has dealt her — and her youngest son. Shuggie struggles with responsibilities beyond his years to save his mother from herself, at the same time as dealing with burgeoning feelings and questions about his own otherness. Gracefully and powerfully written, this is a novel that has impact because of its many emotional registers and its compassionately realised characters. The poetry in Douglas Stuart’s descriptions and the precision of his observations stand out: nothing is wasted.”
“Shuggie Bain can make you cry and make you laugh — a daring, frightening and life-changing novel.”
Margaret Busby was joined on the 2020 judging panel by Lee Child, author; Sameer Rahim, author and critic; Lemn Sissay, writer and broadcaster; and Emily Wilson, classicist and translator.
Stuart will take part in his first official public event as winner for the Southbank Centre on Monday 23 November (7.30pm GMT, £5, online) as part of its ‘Inside Out’ series, interviewed by Bernardine Evaristo.
He will also be interviewed by author and former prize judge Natalie Haynes for the Hay Festival Digital Winter Weekend on Friday 27 November (5.30pm GMT, free, online). Guardian Live will host a Book Club for Shuggie Bain in 2021.
As part of The Booker Prize’s continuing partnership with Doncaster Creates, there will be a virtual Open Mic night on Thursday 26 November hosted by 2020 Booker judge, writer and broadcaster Lemn Sissay MBE, and 2017 shortlisted author Fiona Mozley; both will read passages from their work alongside Doncaster writers. As both the finale and legacy of the partnership, Fiona Mozley will lead the search for a Doncaster New Writer whom she will mentor. The writer will be announced in January 2021.
The Booker Prizes podcast series will be releasing a winner podcast, featuring an interview with Douglas Stuart, available from Wednesday 25 November.
Find out what our shadow reading groups thought of the shortlisted books in six reader review articles.
Listen to the brilliant Booker Prize podcast audio series on Soundcloud with Joe Haddow.
For more information, visit the Booker Prize website.