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The Crack Magazine

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Book of the Month: Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

I put off reading Douglas Stuart’s first novel, the Booker-prize winning ‘Shuggy Bain’, for many a month because it sounded like 400+ pages of misery. Set in 1981 in Glasgow, it tells the story of Shuggy and his many tribulations as he tries to negotiate a chaotic home life with an alcoholic mother and largely absent father. I eventually relented and was glad I did because Shuggy’s tale is so well told, with the ring of truth pouring off every page. ‘Young Mungo’ isn’t a sequel to ‘Shuggy Bain’ but it is very much more of the same – initially jarringly so. The timeframe has been shunted forward about ten years but the milieu is still one of alcoholics and children trying to make the best of a dismal home life. One difference is the titular figure of Mungo, who is 15 and trying to coming to terms with his feelings for James. (Sectarianism is also more to the fore this time with Mungo being Protestant and James Catholic.) Thankfully, Stuart doesn’t ladle on the West Side Story-isms too thick, and their burgeoning love is tenderly handled. The novel doesn’t have the bottled lightning impact that had ‘Shuggy Bain’ had, but this is still a rich and impressive study of damaged individuals trying to make the best of a bad situation. RM

Picador

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