Scotland's Douglas Stuart wins Booker Prize

Lawrence Kim
November 25, 2020

Scottish writer Douglas Stuart's Shuggie Bain was on Thursday evening named the victor of the 50,000 pounds 2020 Booker Prize for Fiction, at the heart of which are the memories he carries of his mother's struggle with drink, with men and with her modest dreams, at the culmination of a star-studded "ceremony without walls" at London's Roundhouse.

Shuggie Bain is Stuart's first novel. He was up against books including Avni Doshi's Burnt Sugar, which tracks the toxic relationship between a mother and daughter, and The New Wilderness by Diane Cook - about one woman's fight to save her daughter in a world destroyed by climate change.

Stuart will take part in his first official public event as victor for Southbank Centre on Monday (November 23) as part of its "Inside Out" series, interviewed by Bernardine Evaristo, the joint victor of the 2019 Booker Prize.

Stuart, 44, who won the 50,000 Pound prize after being announced the victor by chair of the judges Margaret Busby, delivered an acceptance speech.

Douglas Stuart has said his Booker Prize win "means a lot" for regional voices and working-class stories. Here is everything you need to know about the author... After graduating from the Royal College of Art, he moved to NY to start a career in fashion design, working for brands including Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Gap.

Stuart came to writing late in life.

He holds both British and American passports and now lives in NY. Set in Glasgow in 1981, it explores the effects of extreme poverty. Agnes Bain is hard done by: her husband has left her to raise their three children alone, and she's increasingly turning to the bottle.

"Shuggie struggles with responsibilities beyond his years to save his mother from herself, at the same time as dealing with burgeoning feelings and questions about his own otherness".

It's both political and personal, and paints a devastating picture of what life was like for some in Glasgow under Margaret Thatcher. His work has since appeared in LitHub and in The New Yorker, which has published two of his short stories this year. "It's about love before it's about addiction". Despite its grimness and squalor, the book - dedicated to Stuart's mother, who died when he was 16 years old - brims with tenderness and filial affection.

Stuart has almost finished his next novel, Loch Awe.

In the autobiographical novel set in Glasgow in the 1980s, Shuggie Bain follows the life of Shuggie, an impoverished boy struggling to look after his single mother, Agnes, an alcoholic, even as he grapples with his sexuality.

"Young boys like me growing up in 80s Glasgow, this wasn't anything I ever would have dreamt of and, in fact, I was sort of turned away from English and academia towards textiles, which was a much more employable trade".

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