'This Is Going to Be a Classic'

Douglas Stuart wins Booker Prize for 'Shuggie Bain,' his first published novel
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 19, 2020 4:04 PM CST
'This Is Going to Be a Classic'
This cover image released by Grove shows "Shuggie Bain," a novel by Douglas Stuart.   (Grove via AP)

Scottish writer Douglas Stuart won the Booker Prize for fiction Thursday for Shuggie Bain, the story of a boy's turbulent coming of age in hardscrabble 1980s Glasgow. Stuart, 44, won the prestigious $66,000 award for his first published novel, the product of a decade of work, the AP reports. He was the only UK-born author on a US-dominated list of six finalists for the prize, which is open to English-language novels from around the world. A fashion designer who is based in New York, Stuart drew on his own experiences growing up gay in economically ravaged Thatcher-era Glasgow for the story of young Shuggie and his relationship with his alcoholic mother, Agnes. Stuart dedicated the book to own mother, who died when he was 16. "My mother is in every page of this book, and without her I wouldn't be here and my work wouldn’t be here," said Bain.

The novel’s sweep, vivid characters, and unflinching look at poverty have been compared to the work of Charles Dickens. Publisher and editor Margaret Busby, who chaired the judging panel, said Shuggie Bain is intimate and gripping, challenging but hopeful in its exploration of Shuggie's burgeoning sexuality and the complex relationship between mother and son. "It's hard to come away from that book without thinking, 'This is going to be a classic,'" she said. The finalists included American contenders The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste; Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness; Avni Doshi’s India-set mother-daughter tale Burnt Sugar; and Brandon Taylor’s campus novel Real Life, which explores racism and homophobia in academia. The other contender was This Mournable Body, by Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga. (The judges declared a tie last year.)

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