Booker Prize 2020: Douglas Stuart’s Novel Shuggie Bain Wins
20 November 2020 Entertainment
Douglas Stuart has won the Booker Prize for Shuggie Bain, his debut novel about a boy in 1980s Glasgow trying to support his mother as she struggles with addiction and poverty.
Chair of judges Margaret Busby said the judges’ decision was unanimous and they only “took an hour to decide”. The book is “challenging, intimate and gripping… anyone who reads it will never feel the same” she said. Stuart, 44, said he was “absolutely stunned” to win.
He dedicated his book and his prize to his mother, who died of alcoholism when he was 16. The writer added he would like to give his fellow nominees “a hug” and that the “greatest gift” was being able to “touch readers’ lives”.
The novel follows the life of Agnes Bain, who is descending into despair and struggling with alcohol after the breakdown of her marriage.
All but one of her children have been driven away by her deterioration, and that child, Shuggie, struggles to help Agnes while suffering huge personal problems of his own.
The novel is “destined to be a classic” and is “full of such emotional rage, a book that can make you laugh as well as make you cry”, Busby said.
It’s dealing with tough subject matter, with characters not having an easy time – some of the things that happen will make you smile but it’s not one where everyone lives happily ever after. “It’s not a pleasant read, but it’s a hopeful read, challenging, intimate, gripping.”
Stuart, who grew up in Glasgow and lives in New York, is the second Scot to win the prize, following James Kelman in 1994 for How Late it Was, How Late. Stuart has said the book changed his life because it was one of the first times he had seen his people and dialect on the page.