Shuggie Bain, Booker 2020 Winner

I feel proud.

Would you like to know why?

Well, without knowledge, two years in a row, I have chosen to read certain books. They subsequently went on to be nominated and then win the Booker Prize.   

The first one was in 2019 with Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. The second one was Douglas Stuarts Shuggie Bain, the 2020 winner of the Man Booker.

By doing this, may show that I have an international prize-winning literary taste. Or what do you think?

During the lockdown, there was a brief window when my local library was open to the public. Because we had limited time to pick a book, I rushed in, showed my library card–for Test and Trace purposes- and then quickly proceeded to the available books. Shuggie Bain was on display.  I heard it on a Radio 4 program about two years ago. It stood out because Shuggie was a unique name.

I shall take this one, I said to myself.

It was so big that it resembled the younger brother of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. However, on the plus side, it was so big that I was sure it would last me quite a while, most especially as we were not sure how long the lockdown would last. So I set aside time, and every evening I would read Shuggie Bain for about an hour.

Stuarts writing is very descriptive. He effectively portrays Glasgow as it was in the 1980s, even down to the Glaswegian accent. Stuart successfully shows that the 1980s was a harsh and bleak time in Glasgow. The shipyards, engineering works, and coalfields on the city’s fringe were closing. So many of the working class were no longer working but living on benefits.

Shuggie Bain is a story of the effect unfulfilled dreams and the absence of the finer things of life has on Agnes, Shuggies’ mother. This lack in her life leads her deep into alcoholism. Despite this, of all her three children, Shuggie is the one who stays with her right to the end. There tends to be a reversal of roles where Shuggie takes it upon himself to take care of Agnes.

Stuarts book mirrors quite a few of his experiences. He also lived during the Thatcher era, where her economic policies ‘decimated the working man by moving the industry away from the West Coast of Scotland. These policies left behind mass unemployment, alcoholism and drug abuse. His mother, like Agnes, was an alcoholic and, like Agnes, died from alcoholic complications.

This book got me thinking because I grew up in the Thatcher-era, albeit in London and not Glasgow. The greatest thing of significance to me was the abolishment of free school milk. I was not a big fan of milk, so I was pleased about this abolishment.

It now touches my heart that whilst I was rejoicing over the abolition of free school milk, focusing on the latest movie in the cinema, a young boy was going through various struggles. Struggles that a young person, or anyone for that matter, should not have to go through. It may not be Stuart’s exact life story, but there are similarities between Shuggie Bains and Stuart’s life.

Maybe that’s why he won the Booker Prize. His art was so realistic because he was coming from a personal experience.

I highly recommend this book.

Are there any Booker Prize winner books that you recommend?

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