Booker Prize Shortlist Part 3 – The Winner

This week, Fiona from Brompton Library is reviewing Shuggie Bain, this year’s Booker Prize winner.  Over to Fiona…

This is the third book in shortlist I have read so far and, although I really liked the other two, this one definitely stood out.  Shuggie Bain is a novel based on the author’s childhood in Glasgow in the 1980s, growing up with a single mother who died of alcoholism when he was 16.  In fact, the author has said although this is a work of fiction, his mother is in every page.  This is one of the powerful aspects of the novel – the mother seen through her son’s unconditionally loving gaze, even when she is nasty, absent and spending all her money on alcohol, Shuggie just wants to take care of her and help her stop drinking.

Shuggie is a serious child, with an effeminate manner.  He often wears a suit and asks pertinent questions in a posh voice.  His “funny ways” means he is bullied and preyed on by  men and older boys.   There are many unsuccessful attempts to get his to be “normal” and its only his mother who accepts him and loves him as he is.  The book is written from the point of view of someone who doesn’t know any other kind of life and this child’s eye view, stops the novel from being sentimental.  The hardships, the bleakness and even the brutality of their lives are softened by Shuggie’s love for his mother.  He is witness to everything she goes through.  There is also much humour both from Shuggie, and in the Glaswegian banter that goes back and forth between the characters.  It is at times, hilarious and at other times equally heartbreaking, there is hope at the end.

I really loved this novel.  I would say if you are worried about the gruelling subject matter, don’t be put off. It’s a brilliantly written novel that hits all the right notes.


Fiona, Brompton Library

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