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'Shuggie Bain,' Douglas Stuart's First Novel, Wins 2020 Booker Prize

Douglas Stuart based <em>Shuggie Bain</em> on his childhood in Glasgow, Scotland. He was awarded the 2020 Booker Prize on Thursday.
Clive Smith
Booker Prize
Douglas Stuart based Shuggie Bain on his childhood in Glasgow, Scotland. He was awarded the 2020 Booker Prize on Thursday.

The winner of this year's Booker Prize is Douglas Stewart for his debut novel, Shuggie Bain.Based on his own life, the book tells the story of growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, in the 1980s with a mother struggling with addiction.

"I think one of the greatest things you can do when you've been a child who's suffered trauma and been around addiction, where you have absolutely no control over it, is actually to turn it into art and really sort of examine it up closely," Stuart told NPR's Scott Simon in an interview this month.

"I've always felt like my life has been two very distinct parts. The man who worked in fashion in New York, but then the boy who grew up in Glasgow. And so in a lot of ways, writing the book was about sort of bringing those two halves back together."

In a statement, the chair of this year's judges, Margaret Busby, said, "The heart-wrenching story tells of the unconditional love between Agnes Bain — set on a descent into alcoholism by the tough circumstances life has dealt her — and her youngest son. ... Gracefully and powerfully written, this is a novel that has impact because of its many emotional registers and its compassionately [realized] characters. The poetry in Douglas Stuart's descriptions and the precision of his observations stand out: nothing is wasted."

The judges called Shuggie Bain "a moving, immersive and nuanced portrait of a tight-knit social world, its people and its values."

The Booker Prize is the UK's most prestigious prize for fiction written in English. Previous winners have included Hilary Mantel, Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rose Friedman is an Associate Editor for NPR's Arts, Books & Culture desk. She edits radio pieces on a range of subjects, including books, pop culture, fine arts, theater, obituaries and the occasional Harry Potter-check-in. She is also co-creator of NPR's annual Book Concierge and the podcast recommendation site Earbud.fm. In addition, Rose has edited commentaries for the network, as well as regular features like This Week's Must Read on All Things Considered.