Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart – Audible Book Review
Shuggie Bain is the first novel by Douglas Stuart. It was published in 2020 and went on to win the Booker Prize in the same year, which is a remarkable achievement for a first-time novelist. He is the first Scottish winner of the prize since James Kelman for How Late It Was, How Late in 1994, and in many ways his style is reminiscent of Kelman’s work.
The book is set in Glasgow in the 1980s. It tells the story of two Shuggies, father and son. One is a violent and womanising taxi driver, the other is his effeminate and gentle son. The woman that links the two men is Agnes Baines. She has struggled with life since her decision to leave her first husband and go to live with Shuggie. The relationship between the two is tempestuous and she turned to alcohol for relief. She lives with her three children who suffer due to her erratic mood swings caused by her addiction.
The book gives a bleak impression of Glasgow during the 80s and the poverty and violence are quite intense. Despite this, there are still moments of humour dotted in amongst this tale of alcohol addiction. While the writer stresses this is a work of fiction, his own mother died of alcohol addiction when he was 16 years old, and there is an authenticity to the entire work. It’s a sprawling and intense experience that plunges the reader into the world of young Shuggie.
The book is read by Angus King who was an ideal choice for the part, capturing the local slang and accent with ease.
Length: 17 hrs and 30 mins