Scottish-American author Douglas Stuart has won the Booker Prize 2020 for his Scottish working-class novel, Shuggie Bain, a novel that follows a boy growing up in poverty in 1980s Glasgow with a mother who is battling addiction.
It was inspired by some of his own personal experience, his mother died of alcoholism when he was 16.
Here’s what the judges had to say:
Shuggie Bain has so much heart and it does much to put you so deeply inside the society of impoverished Glasgow in the 1980’s. Emily Wilson
It’s heartrending, it’s hopeful, but it’s also desperately sad, it has humour, it has so many qualities, it’s fiction at its best. Margaret Busby
The author, through the two magnificent characters at the centre of this book, they lead us through this world and they are the spark of humanity that makes the pain bearable. Sameer Rahim
The poetic prose and the clear characterisation and sense of place, that has to make this the number one. Lemn Sissay
For future generations of our readers I sincerely think it will be a long term classic that is loved, admired and remembered for a very long time. Lee Child
Scottish Prime Minister and avid reader, Nicola Sturgeon describing it as a raw, searing and beautifully tender novel, mentioned that Douglas Stuart becomes the second Scot to have won the prize; his book also a finalist for the National Book Award (an American Literature Prize) for Fiction awarded this week, that prize won by Charles Yu for Interior Chinatown.
“When James Kelman won in the mid-90s, Scottish voices were seen as disruptive and outside the norm. And now to see Shuggie at the centre of it, I can’t express it,” he said. “Young boys like me growing up in 80s Glasgow, this wasn’t ever anything I would have dreamed of.”
Writing about Glasgow from the US “brought clarity, but it also allowed me to fall in love with the city again”, describing it as “a city of reluctant optimists by default”.
“How would we have survived otherwise?” he asked. “When you don’t have the comfort of money, then you are forced to deal with life on the frontlines, and sometimes love, humour, optimism is all you can bring to a bad situation.”
– extract from interview with Stuart by the Guardian
The only two I have read from the shortlist were Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King and Tsitsi Dangarembga’s This Mournable Body. Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions is already considered a modern classic, one I’d highly recommend if you haven’t already read it.
I have been seeing excellent reviews of Shuggie Bain so I may read it in the months to come. Although I have Maaza Mengiste’s Beneath the Lion’s Gaze on my shelf, so that might be sooner!
Have you read Shuggie Bain? If so, what did you think of it?
Article: Douglas Stuart wins Booker Prize – the Guardian