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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Stunning

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

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Addictive

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

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Deserving of all the prizes it’s been awarded

This story broke my heart, made me laugh, made me feel sad, made me feel disgusted, made me exasperated ... and every other emotion in between! As mother and son, Agnes and Shuggie’s relationship is so precious (and often terrible) against the gloomy backdrop of 80s Glasgow. I started out listening, thinking, “this is depressing”, but ended up with so much empathy for its two main characters that, by the end, I was emotionally drained! The narrator was top-notch and I listened to it comfortably at 1.2 speed. Loved this book.

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Very depressing story

Be warned, there is pretty much nothing uplifting about this family drama, child neglect, alcoholism, abuse and a young child’s victimisation for being gay.
Although well written and the characters are well drawn, the subject matter won’t suit everyone. Would not recommend it.

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  • Deema
  • 06-04-2021

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
  • 06-03-2021

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
  • 06-02-2021

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
  • 16-01-2021

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
  • 02-12-2020

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
  • 02-09-2020

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.

47 people found this helpful

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  • Moodyminx
  • 13-05-2020

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
  • 05-06-2020

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
  • 07-06-2020

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!

17 people found this helpful

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  • Pauline
  • 30-04-2020

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
  • 26-07-2020

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
  • 07-12-2020

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
  • 03-05-2020

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

10 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Happy Doctor
  • 30-11-2020

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • kate
  • 09-06-2020

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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