For a book that is about poverty, abuse and addiction, this novel is strangely bright.
Set in 1980s Glasgow, following the closures of the shipbuilding yards and coal mines, people struggle to make ends meet. Shuggie Bain is the youngest of three children from a dysfunctional family an alcoholic mother. Throughout, they all have their pride and dream for a better life. For Shuggie that means taking care of his mother and for him to be 'normal'. For his mother that means keeping up appearances and finding a good man.
Written in the third person, the story is mostly from the child's point of view, although there is a fair amount from the mother. Now and again the narrative gets into the heads of Shuggie's father, sister, brother and a man with whom his mother has a relationship. The Scottish dialect is used effectively and even if each word or phrase is not understood, the meaning is very clear, giving a sense of Glasgow and the attitudes of the period. It also quite witty despite dreadful quality of life the folk endure with the fear of lasting unemployment and lack of money hanging over them.
Drawn into this harrowing world there is love, hope and dreams. As Shuggie moves from being a very small boy to a young man he learns life lessons, especially resilience. Not really an uplifting book but moving nonetheless. Evocative and heart-breaking. So glad I read it.
WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE
Winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction
Named the Best Book of the Year at the British Book Awards 2021
The Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year 2020
Published by Picador on 20 February 2020.