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Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

The shrilling tale of poverty stricken Glasgow and a young Shuggie Bain.

What can we say about Shuggie Bain? Well to begin,here are a few descriptions from other readers.

“I loved it. You really got drawn into the story. Shuggie was my favourite character, you really felt for him. I give it a 9/10. Definitely will be recommending it as one to read” – Claire

“I loved this book – really thought provoking – how addiction affects everyone in a family, not just the person with the addiction! Shuggie was my favourite character but I must admit I had great pity for his mother, she also had a hard life” – Kathleen

Set in Glasgow in the 1980’s, Shuggie Bain explores the utter despair that exists within a community saturated with poverty and addiction. Following along the life of Agnes Bain, Shuggie’s mother, as well as Shuggie himself, the reader really gains a fantastic insight into what it’s like to live in a poverty stricken community marinated in abuse and addiction. This experience is emphasised with the incorporation of the phonetic Scottish dialect. When we didn’t find ourselves totally immersed in the book, we found ourselves mimicking the Scottish accent aloud. Are we crazy? Maybe – but we just couldn’t help ourselves.

Many have argued that the book should be titled Agnes Bain as it really does follow along with her life in quite some detail. However children are a blank canvas, almost like a sponge. They are totally infatuated with their parents and often learn everything from them. We think it was extremely important that the reader gauge the life of Shuggie’s mother, Agnes, in order to be able to understand Shuggie himself and for that reason, we loved the tale of Shuggie Bain.

Although we found Agnes’s character quite bitter and sometimes manipulative, we could not help but take pity on her as a mother with an addiction. Addiction is a real issue that affects everyone who surrounds it. Douglas Stuart really captured this aspect of the novel well. From the descriptive images of Shuggie witnessing his mother’s intoxicated state to him, at times, wandering the streets on his own; we couldn’t help but want to physically reach out and save him from this nightmare that, to his impressionable character, wasn’t really a nightmare at all.

It is important to remember that this novel is also quite political. It is set in the Thatcherism era which in the past has led to government policies having a severe and devastating impact on the working class. This novel gives the reader a front row seat into how these policies trickle down to the last wrung, leaving the communities at the bottom of the ladder utterly hopeless and desperate.

A despairingly heart-breaking novel that allows you to sit with your thoughts and be grateful for what you have. We must commend Stuart Douglas on this fantastic piece of work. It is a strong 9.5/10 from us here.

You can visit Douglas Stuarts website here.

The Reading Snug, x

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