Book Review: Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Douglas Stuart’s debut, Shuggie Bain – the 2020 Booker Prize winner – was a “dismal autobiographical novel about a young boy who takes care of his alcoholic mother in 1980s Glasgow,” said Johanna Thomas-Corr in The Sunday Times. His sequel was “carved from the same cloth”.

Mungo, 15, lives in Glasgow’s East End with his mother and two older siblings. “His brother Hamish is a leader of a Protestant Faginesque gang; his sister Jodie is a benevolent fallen angel; and her mother, Mo-Maw, is a woman ruined by alcohol.” Early in the novel, Mungo is shooed by his mother on a fishing trip with two menacing strangers from her Alcoholics Anonymous group, who promise to teach him “male pursuits.”

Interspersed with this “creepy outing” are chapters set a few months earlier, detailing Mungo’s first love affair with a Catholic neighbor named James. Though this “shifting timeline” feels forced at times, this is still a “rich” work full of fine writing and “colorful characters.”

One might think – with some justification – that Stuart wrote the same book twice, Nikhil Krishnan said in The Daily Telegraph. Nevertheless, “he makes small differences count”. Because Mungo is older than Shuggie, he can see in his sexuality “not just a source of difference and alienation, but a potential path to escape and emancipation.” And Stuart broadens his focus beyond family life, absorbing the “Jets and Sharks World” of Glasgow’s sectarian politics.

Like its predecessor, this Bear Hug of a New Novel has a “yeasty hint of the autobiographical,” Hillary Kelly said in the Los Angeles Times. If you worshiped Shuggie Bainthis book “will delight you on every page.”

Picador 400 pages £16.99; The Bookstore of the Week £13.99

Cover of the young mongoose book

The bookstore of the week

To order this title or any other printed book, please visit speak to a bookseller on 020-3176 3835. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9am-5.30pm and Sunday 10am-4pm. Book Review: Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Fry Electronics Team

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