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Shuggie Bain

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4.39  ·  Rating details ·  38,730 ratings  ·  5,565 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 b ...more
Hardcover, 430 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by Grove Press
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Katy Burgess On the contrary, it is a portrait of a young boy as he navigates the world of poverty, deprivation and alcoholism of his mother. The story tells how S…moreOn the contrary, it is a portrait of a young boy as he navigates the world of poverty, deprivation and alcoholism of his mother. The story tells how Shuggie does everything he can to help his mother retain her dignity, in spite of her failings. I think it is a beautiful telling of the indomitable human spirit!!
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Alyssia Cooke Having grown up with an alcoholic mother, it was easy to become angry with Agnes. But it is also impossible not to see the deep love that Shuggie feel…moreHaving grown up with an alcoholic mother, it was easy to become angry with Agnes. But it is also impossible not to see the deep love that Shuggie feels for his mother and to pity her, even if it was sometimes difficult to like her.

As a child, I was unbearably embarrassed by my mother. My shame led to rage and a deep-set anger that took many years to shake off. As an adult I pity her and love her in the same awkwardly mingled breath. And that is how Agnes made me feel in part. For all her flaws and her weaknesses, she is a deeply unhappy woman, broken in part by her own actions but also by events she had little control over once they were set in motion. And her son deserved better.(less)

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Average rating 4.39  · 
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 ·  38,730 ratings  ·  5,565 reviews


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Emily May
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary, arc, 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 th
...more
Roxane
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Reminded me of A Little Life. Outstanding, immersive, raw storytelling. Compelling characters.
Paromjit
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Winner of the Booker Prize 2020!

Without doubt, Douglas Stuart has written one of the books of the year, a coming of age story, an unflinching, bleak and emotionally heartbreaking portrayal of a beaten dysfunctional family and Glasgow community, suffering the agonising pains and despair of the Thatcher era in the 1980s. To this day, despite Margaret Thatcher's death, I have yet to forgive her for her divisive ideological policies and her all out war against Britain's poor and working classes, hig
...more
Adina (taking a break from literary fiction)
Worthy winner of the Booker Prize 2020 I only read this book from the shortlist but I am so glad it won.

While I am not following the Booker Prize this year, I’ve decided to read Shuggie Bain because of a flood of positive reviews on my GR feed. Although the subject was bleak, I decided that the praise cannot be for nothing and that it will be worth it. It was, although it wasn’t easy to go through it.

The book is the portrait of a failed poor family in 1980’ s Glasgow during Thatcher, not a l
...more
Elyse  Walters
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
CONGRATS... WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE


Huge congrats on the National award nomination


My heart and gut were grievously affected by this story.
I learned a lot. I felt even more.

I’ve 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 didn’t feel familiar -enough- with the setting or history.

I’m ashamed to say how little I knew abo
...more
Marchpane
BOOKER PRIZE 2020 WINNER

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 doesn’t 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 nove
...more
Beata
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Rarely does it happen that a novel full of despair, bleakness and solitude engages me so deeply and fully. Reading the story of Shuggie and his family was never interrupted by a ray of something positive or uplifting. This novel is so real that makes you hurt and and the same time you do not wish to leave Shuggie with his mother, an alcoholic, but quite the contrary, you pray for a little sunshine at the end of the day.
Agnes's devastating addiciton destroys what is left of her family, with her
...more
Angela M
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I know it sounds cliche, but there’s no other way to describe this story as other than gut wrenching. It’s also beautifully written in authentic dialect which gives a feel of authenticity. If that’s not enough to make it feel real, you’ll 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 1980’s does
...more
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
Meike
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: uk, 2020-read, 2020-booker
Well-deserved winner of the Booker Prize 2020
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 he
...more
Eric Anderson
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So happy that Shuggie Bain has won the 2020 Booker Prize! You can watch my live reaction to the ceremony and an interview with Douglas Stuart immediately after he won the award here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dxu5dYhyQFY

This must be one of the most powerful accounts of alcoholism that I've ever read. “Shuggie Bain” follows the early life of its eponymous hero, but really this novel and Shuggie himself are dedicated to his mother Agnes. In the early 1980s she's raising her children in a Sco
...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
NOW DESERVED BOOKER PRIZE 2020 WINNER - and thanks to the BBC for featuring my congratulatory tweet just ahead of Nicola Sturgeon's (20: 38 and 20:45)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/erx3v2/l...

A desperately moving, heartbreaking book: one which places hope and despair, love and brokenness on the same page, treating them with equal weight and empathy.

I first read this book ahead of the Booker longlist and felt sure (see below) it would make that list and could even be a potential winner - turns out
...more
Peter
Escape
Shuggie Bain is a beautifully written, poignant account of a Glaswegian family and their struggles through poverty, family breakdown, alcoholism, and community divisiveness. In a society where misery and despair circle like vultures, after years of economic assault from a Thatcher government on working-class people, the Bain family’s own story is one of profound hardship and an attempt to escape their embattled lives.

Shuggie Bain is a young boy, effeminate in nature, speaking and acting i
...more
Karen
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5
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 whole
...more
Prerna
Winner of the Booker Prize 2020.

Reading Shuggie Bain is like lying at the depths of an ocean, watching the seemingly calm surface from the bottom only to know it is ephemeral, that it will be wrecked soon by seismic tremors beneath the floors. It is waiting to be thoroughly destroyed and engulfed. It is to be resigned to the fate awaiting you at the end of this book: a searing heartbreak. I knew it all along, yet I couldn't stop reading.

I couldn't take my eyes off of Agnes Bain, who was so vibra
...more
Felicia
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
...more
Doug
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Update 11/19/20: Well, I'm gob smacked! But couldn't be more pleased! FINALLY, for ONCE - the Booker judges got it right! This is the FIRST time in my 7 years of reading the entire longlist that the judges and myself aligned!

Although I have had an ARC of this for quite a few months, it took making the Booker longlist for me to actually get around to reading it, but I am so glad I finally did. Although I have only read 4 of the 13 of this year's Booker nominees, so far, it is going to take a lot
...more
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
What a truly sad story! My heart just broke for our protagonist Shuggie and of course his alcoholic mother, Agnes, who seemed to make the wrong choices in a place that was hard hit by poverty, hardship, and gloom. In essence, Agnes, is the main story line and as we follow her we feel great compassion not only for her struggles with alcohol, but also with a husband, a taxi driver, who philanders. Looking for love, Agnes only received the contempt of her husband who finally abandoned her and his s ...more
Jennifer
Oct 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shuggie Bain is a remarkable debut. In fact, to criticize it at all would be to say it was too tightly woven, and that there wasn’t enough breathing room for the protagonist to fully self-actualize. This didn’t do the story a disservice, however: I could imagine Shuggie, tightly wound and a little suffocated by all that was his mother. And Shuggie Bain/Douglas Stuart paints those around him with such attunement that I could almost smell them.

The star of this story is Agnes Bain, a spirited woma
...more
Pedro
First of all this novel shouldn’t have been titled Shuggie Bain as this story isn’t actually about him but about his mother and how her lifestyle and choices might have (eventually) shaped her son and his life. Everything about him was too nuanced to allow me to empathise with him and everything about his mother was too explicit for me to give a damn about her; and how many beers and glasses of vodka she needed to get drunk.

I know there’s always some kind of manipulative literary device behind
...more
Cheri
!! NOW AVAILABLE !!

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, Shuggie’s Mom. Despite Agnes d
...more
Dolors
Sep 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: The tender and the though
The title of this book should have been “Agnes Bain", as it is primarily about the self-destructive journey of a woman in her mid forties whose addiction to alcohol ruins the lives of her three children, particularly the youngest, a sensitive boy named Hugh after his brutish father.
Set in the Glasgow of the eighties in an impoverished neighborhood, the bleak situation of this family unravels painfully slow, at a deliberate lagging pace, in episodes of Agnes’ failed attempts at sobriety and the i
...more
Hugh
Worthy winner of the Booker Prize 2020.

A moving account of a deprived childhood in Glasgow which is as much about the alcoholic mother Agnes as it is about her eponymous son Shuggie. A very impressive debut novel, but it does feel like a fictional equivalent of a misery memoir, albeit a very well written one.

We follow Shuggie from early childhood through to his teenage years. We know that he will survive, because the first chapter sees him living alone in a Glasgow bedsit pretending to be older
...more
Neale
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Longlisted (and hopefully shortlisted) for the 2020 Booker Prize.

Shuggie wants to be a hairdresser. He promised himself that at sixteen he would go to hair dressing college. And yet instead he finds himself working at a supermarket named Killfeathers. The reader also finds him alone and living in a tiny apartment. We are not privy as to why he is alone. or where his parents are. One thing is for certain though, he is lonely and poor.

Later he finds himself staring in the mirror at his reflection
...more
fatma
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shuggie Bain is one of those novels where, for me, the form let down the content. This is a story about alcoholism, abuse, and poverty, and it is unremitting in its depiction of those things. For all its heavy subject matter, though, it left me largely impassive. It felt like the more the narrative wanted me to feel, the less I actually felt.

The crux of my problem with this novel is its form--that is, its narrative structure and writing style. The writing in Shuggie Bain falls under the weight
...more
Glenn Sumi
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: booker-winners
One of the most moving and gut-wrenching novels I've ever read

I must confess: I had to take breaks from this big thick novel because at times it was simply too painful to read. Extreme poverty, alcoholism, bullying, homophobia, abuse – first-time novelist Douglas Stuart captures it all in intimate, authentic detail. And sometimes I found it just too much to take.

The Booker Prize-winning novel opens in 1992, when the 15-year-old Shuggie Bain is living alone in a delapidated Glasgow rooming house,
...more
Mark Porton
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart is a story about a young boy called Hugh (Shuggie) Bain and his relationship with his alcoholic mother Agnes in working-class Glasgow in the 1980's. Shuggie also has a half-brother and half-sister living with him. They live with Agnes’ parents for a while, in a small council flat, then move to a desolate area with little employment and major social problems. Poor Shuggie is the constant in Agnes’ life, he cares for his Mum after her innumerable ‘benders’ and looks ...more
Peter Boyle
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This heartbreaking tale of alcoholism and poverty in 1980s Scotland knocked me over. Yes it's bleak, but it's a completely engrossing story of a boy's love for his mother. A remarkable debut from Douglas Stuart.

We begin in 1992. 15-year-old Shuggie Bain is living in a grim bedsit, doing his best to avoid the advances of the creepy old man in the room next door. The story then flashes back a decade earlier. A tiny high-rise apartment houses the Bain family, in a downtrodden part of Glasgow. Shugg
...more
PattyMacDotComma
5★
“The doormen always saw her gleaming at the back of the line and beckoned her forward, and she pulled the other girls behind her like a chain gang. They held on to the belt of her coat and muttered protest, but Agnes just smiled her best smile for the doormen, the smile she kept for men, the same one she hid from her mother.”


Shuggie Bain’s mum. Agnes was a beautiful child who was adored and spoiled by her father, from whom she learned how to get anything she wanted. She loved clothes, make-up,
...more
James
Dec 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What good was a soft boy in a hard world?

Easily the best book I've read all year. It had everything I could possibly want from a 5-star read: complex, compelling characters that I cared deeply about and will never forget; beautiful, sharp, soaring prose; and profound, illuminating truths about the joys and frailty of the human condition.

What I loved most about this breathtaking debut novel, however, is that it never once strikes a single false note. Even with authors and books I greatly adm
...more
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Douglas Stuart is a Scottish - American author. His debut novel, 'Shuggie Bain,' is the winner of the 2020 Booker Prize.

‘Shuggie Bain’ was a finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction, the Center For Fiction First Novel Prize, and the Kirkus Prize for Fiction. He is currently at work on his second novel.

His short stories, 'Found Wanting,' and 'The Englishman,' have been published by The New
...more

Articles featuring this book

Let's face it, this year's class of first-time authors is seeing its debut novels launch into a world much different from what anyone in the...
94 likes · 55 comments
“She was no use at maths homework, and some days you could starve rather than get a hot meal from her, but Shuggie looked at her now and understood this was where she excelled. Everyday with the make-up on and her hair done, she climbed out of her grave and held her head high. When she had disgraced herself with drink, she got up the next day, put on her best coat, and faced the world. When her belly was empty and her weans were hungry, she did her hair and let the world think otherwise.” 18 likes
“Shuggie heard the nurse say to a male attendant that she thought for sure Agnes was a working girl. “She is not,” said Shuggie, quite proudly. “My mother has never worked a day in her life. She’s far too good-looking for that.” The matted mink coat gave her an air of superiority, and her black strappy heels clacked out a slurred beat on the long marble hallway.” 12 likes
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