Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Shuggie Bain” as Want to Read:
Shuggie Bain
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Shuggie Bain

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  292 ratings  ·  85 reviews
Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh "Shuggie" Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher's policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city's notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings. Shuggie's mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie's guiding light ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by Grove Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Shuggie Bain, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Shuggie Bain

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  292 ratings  ·  85 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Shuggie Bain
Emily May
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, contemporary, 2020
This is a very dark, depressing, gritty read. It also might be a challenging one for those unfamiliar with the Glasgow dialect-- not unlike the Edinburgh dialect in Welsh's Trainspotting.

It shares other similarities with Welsh's novel. Shuggie Bain is a story of substance addiction and abuse. Think of a possible content warning and it is probably in this book. Graphic rape. Physical and emotional abuse. And beyond these overt horrors, the narrative itself is just so... bleak. It seems fitting
Angela M
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I know it sounds cliche, but theres no other way to describe this story as other than gut wrenching. Its also beautifully written in authentic dialect which gives a feel of authenticity. If thats not enough to make it feel real, youll think so when you read the first sentence of the Acknowledgements at the end.

This is a stark look at the impact of family dysfunction and alcoholism and the impact on the children who struggle through it. If this story of a family in Glasgow in the 1980s doesnt
Elyse  Walters
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My heart and gut were grievously affected by this story.
I learned a lot. I felt even more.

Ive already discussed this book in length with my husband- making him read parts with me. I tried to comprehend the brutal conditions...
I was a little confused in the beginning.... needing to read each sentence slowly.
I didnt feel familiar -enough- with the setting or history.

Im ashamed to say how little I knew about the 1980s - 1990s - poverty-ravaged Thatcher-era in Glasgow.... horrific devastation -
Diane S ☔
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 I knew it! When I was only fifty pages or so into the book, I had the feeling it was going to break my heart. It did. Glasgow in the eighties, many live in council housing, a day to day existence. These people are so messed up, poor and struggling, trying to find money, love, desperate beyond belief. Agnes turns to drink, anything to escape the mess she has made of her life. Her three children, try their best, but it is never enough. One leaves home as soon as she can, leaving her mother and ...more
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is billed as a coming-of-age story but be warned...

Shuggie Bain is NOT a John Green book.

This is a graphic, gritty, unflinching coming-of-age story about the life of a precious child struggling for air under an avalanche of tribulations and his alcoholic mother of whom his love knows no bounds.

It takes a few chapters to settle into Shuggie's world but I implore you to stick it out.

Douglas Stuart's writing is exemplary in creating an immersive experience unlike any I've experienced in
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a very heart wrenching story of a young boy named Shuggie who was growing up in public housing in Glasgow.. third child of an alcoholic woman. The woman has three children .. the first two from one good man, who she leaves .. with both children for another man and then had Shuggie with him. The father of Shuggie was not a good man and he moved them all to public housing and then left them...and the woman became increasingly invested in alcohol.
Shuggie throughout this story tries
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: uk, 2020-read
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a true gem, a wonderfully empathetic, but also tough novel about the son of an alcoholic mother growing up in Glasgow during the Thatcher era, and this debut might become all the rage this award season. Stuart's novel centers on young Shuggie, whose beautiful mother Agnes left her first husband - a steady and honest, but not very exciting man - because she dreamt of a more glamorous, affluent and adventurous life with her lover Shug. Caught up in her own want and ...more

4.5 Stars

The day was flat. That morning his mind had abandoned him and left his body wandering down below. The empty body went listlessly through its routine, pale and vacant-eyed under the fluorescent strip lights, as his soul floated above the aisles and thought only of tomorrow. Tomorrow was something to look forward to.

Shuggie Bain, whose real name is Hugh, named after his father, Shug, a taxi driver who is the second husband of Agnes, Shuggies Mom. Despite Agnes
I think my heart grew three sizes reading this.

Shuggie Bain is a young boy growing up in 80s Glasgow, with an alcoholic mother, absent father, and a dawning sense that he just doesnt fit the same mould as all the other kids. It is a stark, evocative novel that presents both its setting and its characters with deep empathy.

We follow Shuggie from ages six to seventeen, but it is not much of a childhood as he spends most of it looking after his mother. Really, this novel is her tragic story and
Carmel Hanes
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
5 for this author's ability to convey the twisted, dark underbelly of a child living with an alcoholic as well as struggling with being different; a 3 for the level of enjoyment I had while reading it--averaged to 4. This was not an easy read, and I considered abandoning it at times. Not because it wasn't a fascinating and disturbing topic, but because it was hitting far too close to the bone for me. This book will be hard for some to read, and others may have no interest. Much of the dialogue ...more
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Set in the 80s in Glasgow, Shuggie Bain is a depressingly sad story of a little boy Hugh 'Shuggie' living in a social housing with his gorgeous but alcoholic mother Agnes. Shuggie is different from other boys and doesn't like the usual 'boy stuff' and so he's constantly bullied and picked on. He loves his mummy dearly and wants to protect her from men who use her and don't care about her. Agnes takes pride in her appearance but that's not enough to keep her husband Shug to stay with her. Her ...more
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
First of all - I would like to thank NetGalley, Author DOUGLAS Stuart, and the Publisher of Grove Atlantic for my advanced copy to read, in exchange for my honest review

This in my opinion will be a book that will be noticed. It is really hard to believe that this is the authors debut novel. It is one that took a great many years to write. It compels you to keep reading and feels, although it is fiction that it is mostly a true story

A heartbreaking sad, story full of deprive, taking place in the
Kasa Cotugno
Easily one of the most heart wrenching examples of auto fiction to come out of the United Kingdom. Donald Stuart's debut (!) novel relates in nuanced, excruciating detail the coming of age of Hugh (Shuggie) Bain, youngest child of Agnes, raised on the mean streets and outskirts of Glasgow in the eighties during the times of Iron Lady Thatcher. The trickle down effect her regime brought on working class Glaswegians. Agnes herself never had a chance. Her history, told in backstories, contributed ...more
ʚϊɞ Shelley ʚϊɞ
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It wasnt fair, the way everyone could up and leave as they pleased.

Like all great literature, Shuggie Bain is about more than it seems. Yes, it is about Scotland, poverty, alcoholism and sexually coming of age. But what it is essentially and magnificently about is the glory of words, language, stories, the stuff we all carry in our minds to make life bearable. It is also about the best and the worst intentions of a benighted parent and how their alcoholism keeps her (and in part, her family)
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shuggie Bain by @douglas_stuart wont just break your heart, it will put it into a vice grip and slowly twist it until shattering it into a thousand tiny pieces.
An ambitious debut novel thats part history lesson, part family saga and a complete recount of the beautiful bond between a son and his mother.
Told over an eleven year period in the corners of Glasgow Hugh Shuggie Bain is the son of a lowly cab driver and a mother, Agnes, who is desperately struggling with alcohol
Steve Donoghue
A manipulative but intensely memorable debut novel about a boy dealing with being gay in the shank-end of 1980s Glasgow ... and about his mother, a hopeless alcoholic who passively derails the lives of her entire family, all of it written in beautiful, effective prose. A strong recommendation! Here's my longer review:
Tricia Mcnulty
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a true perception of Thatcherism in 80s Glasgow. High unemployment and the struggle of an alcoholic single mum and her youngest son. It is emotional, touching and a realistic portrayal of one boys undying love for his mother through all life throws at them. A compelling read. ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
via my blog:
'He felt something was wrong. Something inside him felt put together incorrectly. It was like they could all see it, but he was the only one who could not say what it was. It was just different, and so it was just wrong'.

Drinking and Drugs as escape during a time when people are out of work and downtrodden happens in any country. In this moving novel, Shuggie Bain comes of age during the 1980s in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatchers policies have put
Sherry Chiger
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This gets a solid four-and-a-half-star rating from me. It's tough to believe Douglas Stuart is a first-time novelist: "Shuggie Bain" is so tightly written and plotted and evokes the seamier side of Thatcher's Glasgow so vividly. I appreciate that he didn't cop out with happy denouements, neatly tied-up endings, and characters who were all black or all white. And the final chapters are close to perfect. The only reason I'm not giving this five stars is that a few parts felt repetitive and a few ...more
Tina Pohlman
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book grabbed me from the first sentence and didnt let me go till the last. But it has stayed with me, so maybe it will never let me go. The incantatory power of the prose, the nuanced complexity of the characters, and the stunning sweep of the storythese are the qualities that draw you in and keep you turning the pages. But what will win your heart is a boy named Shuggie, wise beyond his years and forgiving beyond compare. Reading SHUGGIE BAIN is like watching a prisms rainbows dance on the ...more
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
I visited Glasgow last year and saw a city that while a bit gritty was getting on with things. People were out and about and there was a general good vibe about the place. Not so for young Shuggie Bain growing up in the 1980s with massive unemployment, hopelessness, poverty, alcoholism and the scourge of power - domestic violence. And poor Shuggie suffers further due to his effeminate manners, speech and interests. He adores his mother but her addition to the drink destroys her and those she ...more
Kelly Long
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, arcs, netgalley
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.
This book was so heartbreaking and deep. Very much a character built and driven, realistic novel. Great debut novel.
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Heartbreaking, but so very beautiful.
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing

A wonderfully evocative tale that is hard to believe is Douglas Stuart's debut novel. It gives a realistic and detailed account of life in 1980's Glasgow and its environs with all the social deprivation that existed then. Deindustrialisation in the 1960s and 70s had left the area in ruins. We see how the effects of this deindustrialisation and the blight of urban planning will lead to communities and families being in crisis with the inevitable rise in crime, addiction and an underlying
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing

I read Shuggie Bain in less than 2 days. I couldnt put it down from the second I picked it up. Its one of those delicious books that you just want to devour.
The adventure is focused on young Shuggie navigating his reality with the unfair start of not only a tough atmosphere of a poverty stricken housing scheme on the outskirts of Glasgow but an eccentric, gorgeous, alcoholic mother Agnes who he desperately loves to his core.
Douglas Stuarts cast of characters made me love (or despise in a few
Charlie Smith
Feb 12, 2020 rated it liked it
I'm not comfortable writing a review of a novel so closely tied to someone's personal experience/biography, other than to say this was a wrenching experience about which to read, I cannot imagine living through it.
Not recommended for those affected by the travails and horrors of other people's lives. The characters herein experience every kind of terror and hatred. Rape. Abuse of every kind. Abandonment. Homophobia. Sexism. Class-ism.
Take care and be in a VERY GOOD and HEALTHY place before
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Public housing in Glasgow, Scotland during the poverty-stricken Thatcher years: The setting is dreary and bleak. The actions of the adults are often despicable. The despair of the children is heart-breaking. Yet I could NOT stop reading. I couldn't wait to see how Shuggie emerges from his childhood. I was rooting for him, and his mother Agnes, even when I thought they should both give up. It's an engrossing saga that lingers long after the last page. Shuggie Bain is a character who will stay ...more
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's hard to grasp that this is Douglas Stuart's first novel. There is not a word that does not propel this book forward in the most gripping and heart-rending way. This is a beautiful story of love and family, with an insidious villain. I loved every page.

Thanks to the publisher, Edelweiss, and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to review this book. I'm still reeling.

~~Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader
Feb 26, 2020 marked it as to-read
This was heartbreaking. A very good book though, I was stuck on each and every word and found it hard to put down a few times. It follows the point of view of the baby of this family, his name is Shuggie. There are 3 children, the 2 older ones are from one man, the man the mother leaves for another, and this other man is Shuggie's father. He isn't a good man, he brings the family to live in the ghetto before he ultimately leaves; all the while the mother is falling deeper and deeper into ...more
Alan Debeger
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I will never forget Agnes or Shuggie, it is hard to believe this is Douglas Stuart's Debut novel. He pulled me in to the Bain family from the warmth of the first chapter and his wicked sense of humor had me laughing out loud, steering me to intensely harrowing and beautiful scenes of a son trying to keep his mother safe from herself and the place and time they live in.

If this book is turned into a film every actress will be fighting for the role to play Agnes walking into the hospital to visit
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Cleanness
  • Apeirogon
  • Real Life
  • Weather
  • Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
  • The Nickel Boys
  • The Better Liar
  • Greenwood
  • Inland
  • The Lost Book of Adana Moreau
  • Serotonin
  • Run Me to Earth
  • We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast
  • Braised Pork
  • Find Me (Call Me By Your Name, #2)
  • Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations
  • The Other Americans
  • The Wall
See similar books…
Douglas Stuart is a Scottish - American author. His short story, Found Wanting, was published in The New Yorker magazine.

His debut novel, Shuggie Bain, is published by Grove Atlantic in the US and Picador in the UK. It is to be translated into Swedish, Norwegian, Italian, German and French. He wrote Shuggie Bain over a ten year period and is currently at work on his second novel.

Born in Glasgow,

Articles featuring this book

Every new year ushers in a brand-new class of debut authors to discover. And the beginning of 2020 has plenty of fresh new voices to add to you...
100 likes · 44 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »