This 'hopeful read' is the winner of the 2020 Booker Prize

Anya Meyerowitz
·3-min read
Photo credit: Unsplash
Photo credit: Unsplash

From Red Online

After a year where the escapism of reading became even more pivotal, our need for new and noteworthy novels is greater than ever before, which is why we've been holding our breath for the Booker Prize 2020 announcement.

And it finally came last night, during the livestreamed event on BBC iPlayer, where Douglas Stuart was announced as the winner of the esteemed literary prize for his debut novel, Shuggie Bain.

Shuggie Bain is about a boy in 1980s Glasgow trying to support his mother as she struggles with addiction and poverty.

The novel follows the life of Agnes Bain, who is descending into despair and struggling with alcohol after the breakdown of her marriage.

All but one of her children have been driven away by her deterioration, and that child, Shuggie, struggles to help Agnes while suffering huge personal problems of his own.

Chair of judges Margaret Busby said the judges' decision was unanimous and they only 'took an hour to decide'.

The book is 'challenging, intimate and gripping... anyone who reads it will never feel the same' she said.

She added that the novel is 'destined to be a classic' and is 'full of such emotional rage, a book that can make you laugh as well as make you cry', Busby said.

'It's dealing with tough subject matter, with characters not having an easy time - some of the things that happen will make you smile but it's not one where everyone lives happily ever after.

'It's not a pleasant read, but it's a hopeful read, challenging, intimate, gripping.'

Stuart said he was 'absolutely stunned' to win and dedicated his book and his prize to his mother, who died of alcoholism when he was 16.

The gracious writer added he would like to give his fellow nominees 'a hug' and that the 'greatest gift' was being able to 'touch readers' lives'.

The writer, who made New York his home to start a career in fashion design, started writing his book a decade ago. He told the BBC that Shuggie Bain was 'a love story looking at that unconditional, often tested love that children can have for flawed parents'.

'I'm sorry if I make it sound like a bleak book, it's actually very funny, it's tender and there's a lot of intimacy and love. I think that's the Glaswegian spirit. Growing up in Glasgow was, I think, probably one of the greatest inspirations of my life,' he said.

'Part of the reason Shuggie is queer is because I am queer and I grew up in Glasgow. I also liked the balance Shuggie offered to Agnes because it's really about how these two are receding from the world, and how they cling to each other and rely on each other,' he added.

The ceremony, broadcast from London's Roundhouse, included contributions from the Duchess of Cornwall and former US President Barack Obama.

Sir Kazuo Ishiguro, who won the 1989 Booker for The Remains of the Day, was also part of the socially distanced proceedings, along with last year's joint winners Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo.

The Booker prize is open to any novel written in English by an author of any nationality and four of this year's nominated books were written by debut novelists. All of this year's nominees are based outside the UK.

The other nominated novels were:

  • Diane Cook - The New Wilderness

  • Tsitsi Dangarembga - This Mournable Body

  • Avni Doshi - Burnt Sugar

  • Maaza Mengiste -The Shadow King

  • Brandon Taylor - Real Life

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