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Publisher's Summary

Winner of The Booker Prize 2020.

Shortlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction 2020.

The Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year 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, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist 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

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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Narrator

The Glaswegian accent, especially in dialogues, is presumably realistic but is difficult for a non- native to understand.

3 people found this helpful

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A long narrative of a sad childhood

I picked up this book as it had won the Booker Prize 2020. As it happens, the Booker Prize winning entries are often too sad to enjoy. The last Booker Price winning entry I had read was 'God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy - another family story interwoven with grief.

This book captures the entire journey of the young boy Shuggie Bain from his age of 5 till he turns 15. The story travels through his interactions with society against the backdrop of his mother's struggle with drinks and men. The relationship between siblings - Leek and Shuggie, men and women - Shug/ Eugene and Agnus, as well as parents and kids - Agnes and her parents across multiple generations and times have been portrayed pretty realistically in this novel. But the highlight is Shuggie's relationship with his mom and his natural hope around her alcoholism. How can one give up hope when that is the only support one has in their life.

The author has penned down the emotions and characters with impeccable precision. Really makes you feel their hopelessness, small joys, big sorrows and the struggle to make it all work. Although a bit long, worth a read. The narrator on Audible has used multiple variations to depict different characters - a few of them aren't very legible, but otherwise a decent experience.

1 person found this helpful

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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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  • 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.

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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.

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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!

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  • KMV
  • 02-09-20

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.

52 people found this helpful

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  • Moodyminx
  • 13-05-20

Wonderful read

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

38 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-06-20

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.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Julie A Addis
  • 07-06-20

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!

18 people found this helpful

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  • Pauline
  • 30-04-20

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.

16 people found this helpful

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  • SamanthaK
  • 26-07-20

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.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Andy
  • 07-12-20

Dazzling

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

12 people found this helpful

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  • Sue Tully
  • 03-05-20

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

11 people found this helpful

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  • Happy Doctor
  • 30-11-20

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.

10 people found this helpful

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  • kate
  • 09-06-20

Touching funny and sad

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

8 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 23-01-21

Harrowing and poignant

very sad and yet sweetly tender
keep worrying about characters after finishing
worthy of Booker

2 people found this helpful

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  • Cameron
  • 29-12-20

depressing even though it was obviously well writt

Don't listen to this if you are already depressed although well read and written not enjoyable

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ferne Burns
  • 13-02-21

Outstanding in all areas

A moving and sad journey of a family & hardship.
This book took my breathe away with its extraordinary detail.
Hard to listen to at times, due to the themes but brilliantly told like no other book I’ve read before or listened too. The best narrator I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening too, and one of the best books I’ve ever read. Thank you!

1 person found this helpful

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  • samantha bryant
  • 09-02-21

Brilliant

It is weeks since I finished this book and it is still with me...I thought it was great. The Scottish accent maybe hard for some.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Glen
  • 01-02-21

Pure Delight

Loved this book and the narrating by Angus King made it even more delightful. I could have listened for another 17 hours.

1 person found this helpful

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  • A. Gander
  • 02-05-21

Almost perfect story

Despite this being unrelentingly miserable in terms of subject matter, it’s told in such a way and with just enough humour that it’s bare able and you feel personally involved with the characters. An absolute must read for anyone who thinks that we are all born equal and with equal chances to succeed: it might stir some sympathy and understanding for the children who have to grown up with the sort of poverty/home life of Shuggie and Agnes who is as much of a victim of circumstances as he is, despite being old enough to ‘know better’.
It’s probably over long and needed to accelerate a bit in the middle. I’d also have loved to know more about Shuggie’s life at the end. Is there a sequel?! This one is going to stay with me for years. Also so pleased to have listened to this as an audio book with the Glaswegian accent taking me back to Scotland.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 27-04-21

Fantastic - couldn't stop listening.

The writing is brilliant and the narration perfect. You experience the grim, damp, hopeless emptiness of an impoverished, alcoholic, drug-addled section of society whose plight is neither romanticised nor tarnished with moral judgement. This novel is first-class and the narrator did it justice.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 14-04-21

Excellent read!!

What a fantastic read. This transported me back to Glasgow. Loved how the story was interlaced with Glasgow Patter.
The descriptiveness truley demonstrates the rawness of life and circumstances for the characters within.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-04-21

Stunning

Thoughtfully written and sensitive account of the most challenging childhood. Stunning and engaging narration. I could not stop listening.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 04-04-21

Addictive

A compelling story well told. Funny, sad and thought provoking. Wonderful complex characters, expertly written.