Published: Sat, November 21, 2020

Douglas Stuart wins Booker Prize for 'Shuggie Bain'

Douglas Stuart wins Booker Prize for 'Shuggie Bain'

Scottish-American novelist Douglas Stuart won the Booker Prize for Fiction on Thursday (Nov 19) for his debut novel Shuggie Bain.

Though there were four debuts on the Booker shortlist, it's been more than a decade since a debut won. Winners of the Booker Prize receive £50,000 in award money.

Stuart's book reflects his own experiences growing up with a mother who was an alcoholic and died from her addiction. After graduating from the Royal College of Art in London, he moved to New York City, where he began a career in fashion design. Some of the things in the novel will make you smile but it is not one of those typical novelswhere everyone lives happily ever after.

Though there have been many British winners of the Booker Prize, majority English, Stuart is the first Scottish victor since James Kelman took the 1994 prize with "How Late it Was, How Late" - a book Stuart has called an inspiration.

"I am absolutely stunned", said a tearful Douglas Stuart, who, like the other finalists, was logged on to the online ceremony in London from his home in NY.

Ishiguro, 66, who won the Man Booker in 1989 for The Remains of the Day, said the prize itself was not the final test.

He was announced as this year's victor in a virtual ceremony which featured contributions from former U.S. president Barack Obama and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Shortly after the announcement, Stuart expressed gratitude for the award.

In a statement, the chair of this year's judges, Margaret Busby, said that "The heart-wrenching story tells of the unconditional love between Agnes Bain - set on a descent into alcoholism by the tough circumstances life has dealt her - and her youngest son".

"It's no easy task to write a book", former US President Barack Obama, whose memoir "A Promised Land" has just been published, said in a message, adding that writing "helps in putting ourselves in other peoples' shoes".

Also on the list is Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga's "This Mournable Body", which links the breakdown of its central character and turmoil in post-colonial Zimbabwe. Shuggie struggles with responsibilities beyond his years to save his mother from herself, at the same time as dealing with burgeoning feelings and questions about his own otherness.

The Booker Prize's shortened video ceremony followed another big night in the literary world, the National Book Awards, held Wednesday night, which was entirely virtual. "And as long as we can read, we can travel, we can escape, we can explore, we can laugh, we can cry and we can grapple with life's mysteries".

Busby said "there were no tantrums" among the judges, who included poet Lemn Sissay and thriller writer Lee Child.

The Booker Prize is the United Kingdom's most prestigious literary award, open to any novel written in English by an author of any nationality.

Booker Prize bosses did however move to quell discontent among prize purists sparked by the selection of Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo as dual winners previous year despite clear rules against this. Since 2014, authors from other English-speaking countries have also been eligible to enter the competition.

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