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Shuggie Bain (Kobo eBook)

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A startling debut novel from a remarkable new voice in fiction, Shuggie Bain is one of the most exciting debuts Grove has acquired in recent years. It was bought from agent Anna Stein who represents some of the most successful literary writers working today, from Ben Lerner to Hanya Yanagihara to Etgar Keret to Maria Semple. The last debut writer Stein was this excited about was Hanya Yanagihara, and A Little Life has since been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has sold over 300,000 copies in all formats. We are thrilled to have won this extraordinary book.

A kind of answer to the privileged upper-class milieu of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, Shuggie Bain lays bare the ruthlessness of poverty during the Thatcher years in Scotland. Shuggie is a character you can’t help but root for as he navigates class, sexuality, and addiction while trying to find a place in a world that seems to push him away.

Rights has already been sold well before publication, to Ravi Mirchandani at Picador in the UK, to Bonniers in Sweden, and Gyldendal in Norway. All three are editors of A Little Life and, like the agent, see this book as a title with a similar potential. It is very unusual to have rights sales especially to countries in Scandinavia over a year before publication.

The past few decades have seen a number of Irish writers published to great acclaim, especially Sally Rooney, and we hope Shuggie Bain will inspire a similar reception for Scottish literature, following in the footsteps of major commercial successes like Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

We are pursuing blurbs from many highly regarded writers, including Colm Tóibín, Edmund White, Leslie Jamison, Gail Honeyman, Anne Enright, Claire Messud, and Garth Greenwell, and already have glowing early praise from Karl Geary, author of Montpelier Parade.

It is rare that we see a novel set in and by a writer from the poorest part of the working class. Like Anna Burns or Edouard Louis, Douglas Stuart gives readers a window into a world unknown to most of them, and it will appeal to fans of Angela’s Ashes and the work of Anne Enright.

Douglas’s personal story is a very powerful one and it echoes the subject matter of the novel. By the age of sixteen, he was living alone in a tenement room in a Glasgow sublet, but managed to enroll himself in technical college and ultimately graduate with an MA from the Royal College of Art, whereafter he was recruited by Calvin Klein and moved to New York City. His last job in fashion was as a VP at Jack Spade, and he now writes full time. Shuggie Bain was the product of ten years of work and Stuart is already working on his next novel.

The novel has a strong visual, filmic quality, and has invoked comparisons from early readers to films from Billy Elliot to Ken Loach’s work to Trainspotting. We hope for a potential adaptation of Shuggie Bain down the line.