One review on 01 Jun 2021

First Published: 2020


Shuggie Bain

Author: Douglas Stuart 

Summary: Single parent life from pov of mother and son in Glasgow 1980s

Date first read: Tue 1st Jun 2021

Format:   Hardback

Catalogued: 1st Jun 2021


Shuggie's mother, Agnes, has a bit of a drink problem and gets dumped by her philandering taxi driver second husband (big Shug, Shuggie's dad) in a sink housing development on the outskirts by a closed coal mine.

Agne's problem gets worse as Shuggie struggles, and fails, to fit in. The place reeks of poverty with alcohol as an escape inwards.



Gripping and painful

by rogerco on Tue 1st Jun 2021.

Although the first chapter tells us where we are going this in no way detracts from the book, in fact it makes it easier to stick with it as we know whatever shit happens there is a followup story to be told.

Often very painful as we travel with Shuggie, sometimes funny as Agnes attempts to keep up appearances in from of the (ex-)miner's womenfolk, always an air of tragedy and incipient disaster as the family stumble from one crisis to the next nearly identical crisis - trapped in cycles of behaviour that are unrelenting.

It convinces as a true account of what life might be like for some of those near the bottom of the social pile - and it reminds us that whatever we may think of those situations they are being acted out by real live human beings. Do their lives not have value? Shuggie's devotion to his mother. Agnes's tempestuous relationship with her demons.

Through it all an undercurrent of religious divide-and-rule between two branches of one religion being used to other and demean those with whom common cause could so easily be found. Plus of course the question of what industrial masculinity means in a world without masculine work. A tale of two taxi drivers - Big Shug, the intolerant exploiter of women, and Eugene, who wants to be exploited by them.

No surprise, that Shuggie with these role models finds a third way in his own nature.