Shuggie Bain: the 2020 Booker Prize winner

Sophie Wilson reports on the winner of the annual award

Sophie Wilson
30th November 2020
A debut novel about a boy in 1980s Glasgow, living with family problems that involve addiction and poverty, Shuggie Bain has been announced as this year’s Booker Prize winner. 

Douglas Stuart’s book is said to “lay bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride”, and it is for this reason that it has won the award dedicated to bringing “recognition, reward and readership to outstanding fiction for over 50 years”. 

Born and raised in Glasgow himself, Stuart graduated from the Royal College of Art in London before moving to New York City where he embarked upon a career in fashion design. Stuart said that it felt “unreal” to have his book even longlisted for such a prize, saying that “[t]his validation of the work is life-changing.” 

The chair of judges, Margaret Busby, said that their decision took an hour, because of how “challenging, intimate and gripping” this book is.

But, this book was not a success immediately. Talking to BBC Radio 4, he has previously said that his book was “turned down 32 times” before it was finally published. However, Busby has now said that it is “destined to be a classic”, being “full of such emotional rage” and is a book that “can make you laugh as well as make you cry”. 

Stuart has said that he is now finalising his next book, Loch Awe. This is set in 1990s Glasgow and is about two teenage boys who fall in love despite a lot of pressures placed against them. With toxic masculinity a key theme, his next book appears to be just as important as his award-winning one. 

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