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  • Shuggie Bain

  • Written by: Douglas Stuart
  • Narrated by: Angus King
  • Length: 17 hrs and 30 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (47 ratings)

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Shuggie Bain cover art

Shuggie Bain

Written by: Douglas Stuart
Narrated by: Angus King
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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Booker Prize 2020

Winner of 'Book of the Year' at the British Book Awards 2021

Winner of 'Debut of the Year' at the British Book Awards 2021

A BBC 'Big Jubilee Read'

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.

©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)

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What listeners say about Shuggie Bain

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Narrator

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

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

2 people found this helpful

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Great story but poor narration

The story was great but the narrator's accent makes it very difficult to make sense of a lot of words.But the story make the extra effort worthwhile.

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Matt Mole
  • 05-05-22

A tough but insightful book

Growing up gay with an alcoholic mother is no piece of cake for a boy in 70’s Glasgow. This is a tough book to listen to but beautifully read and performed. I doubt I could have read the book.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-03-22

It captured me

Sad, funny, despairing and hopeful the story had a cast of multidimensional characters, some quirky, but all very real, I became very invested in Shuggie and his family.
The narration was beautiful, easy to listen to and expressive.
The best book I have listened to this year.

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  • Justinas Rastenis
  • 10-02-22

Insightful narration

Immersive read about one of the most depressing chapters in British history narrated through lenses of a single family. It is about love and responsibility, empathy and cruelty. It opens up a perspective on alcoholism that is prevalent also in today's societies. Worth every minute spent listening to this story.

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  • Rachel Maritz
  • 20-10-21

Excellent narrator

What an absolutely excellent narration by Angus King that brought the characters to life and carried the deeply sad and touching story like reading it yourself could not do!

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  • Ronda
  • 02-10-21

Heart breaking

OMG ... what a book . I am of a similar age to Shuggie and could not imagine growing up like he did . Brilliantly told story of people just trying to cope as best they can with the life dealt to them . I felt so much for Agnus who yearned for so much more but ended up looking in all the wrong places

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  • Erika Martin
  • 08-09-21

Highly recommended

Wonderful and thought provoking.
Read by Angus King who is, as always, a perfect narrator.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 31-08-21

Heartbreaking, agonizing and tragic

Highly recommended. The book is uncomfortably thought provoking and beautiful. This story feels so honest and the characters are so flawed yet easy to love.

The narrator was absolutely brilliant and added to the enjoyment of this book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Monika Sznajder
  • 11-08-21

Excellent in all ways

The narrator rocks! Just as all the rest, the story, the characters, you name it!

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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.

96 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

58 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.

37 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!

33 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.

26 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 .

22 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.

18 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

16 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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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.

15 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.

12 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

7 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!

5 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

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • James Graves
  • 30-06-21

wow

a brilliantly written book, can't wait to discuss it at our book club!

got a little slow about half way through but I'm glad I persevered

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ali Oates
  • 19-06-21

An absolute masterpiece.

This was one of the most intense and magnificent reading experiences of my life. It will stay with me forever. I feel quite bereft that it is over. Brilliant narration added a whole new dimension to the story. Cannot recommend it highly enough.

2 people 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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • jasper
  • 13-06-21

so tender

The love between a boy and his substance abusing mother at the same time adorable and devistating

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Shug Crossan
  • 13-06-21

Gritty real life story.

This is a gritty and sometimes harrowing real life story, if your looking for happy endings you won’t find them here.
I very much enjoyed the story tellers Scottish vernacular, and his character voices.
This book took me back to my childhood…warts and all. Unfortunately life is like this for many still, and not just in Scotland.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-06-21

A rich surprise packet

This was such a rich story told with great empathy. It took a while to get used to the narrator’s accent but I loved his characterisations. I am hoping for a sequel!

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jude
  • 09-06-21

Outstanding, heartbreaking, honest.

Do your self a favour and listen to the audible version - the Scottish Brogue adds another dimension to this authentic and guileless tale. Those who enjoyed Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes will love the immersion of time/culture in an existence portrayed so purely one can’t help but be pulled in.
Seriously good writing - a Booker for sure.

1 person found this helpful