Shortlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction 2020 The Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year 2020 Longlisted for the 2021 Rathbones Folio Prize
'Douglas Stuart has written a first novel of rare and lasting beauty.' – Observer
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.
'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
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
About the Author
Douglas Stuart was born and raised in Glasgow. After graduating from the Royal College of Art, he moved to New York, where he began a career in design. Shuggie Bain is his debut novel. His short stories, ‘The Englishman’ and ‘Found Wanting’, have appeared in the New Yorker. His essay on Gender, Anxiety and Class was published by Lit Hub.