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Kirstin Innes: The amazing ‘Shuggie Effect’ has revitalised Scottish writers and readers

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20.04.2022

On Monday this week I had the absolute pleasure of a trip to Edinburgh to chair an event celebrating Douglas Stuart’s new book, Young Mungo.

Released last week, it’s his thoughtful and heart-wreckingly tender follow up to the 2020 Booker Prize-winning, juggernaut Shuggie Bain.

The event was at independent book shop, Portobello Books – one of 12 Scottish dates Stuart has done up and down the country in the last week. It sold out almost instantly with every seat filled, plus more than 200 people watching the livestream online.

I jokingly introduced Young Mungo as “the most anticipated novel in Scottish literary history, like, ever”, but, thinking about it now, I’m not sure there was much joke there.

Something about the combination of lockdown, the huge boost of being Scotland’s second-ever Booker Prize winner in 52 years, plus the sheer honesty, heart and beauty of Stuart’s writing has meant that Scottish readers have taken the story of a young gay Glasgow boy and his alcoholic mum, struggling within Thatcher’s Britain, to their hearts like no other book I can think of.

Over the years I’ve attended a lot of book events, whether as a writer, panellist, reader or chairperson, and I can’t remember another one where the atmosphere was so charged, where the writer was essentially a celebrity just for their writing, with no fame predating publication. There were people there who had made it their mission to attend as many of Stuart’s events on this tour as possible, like he was their favourite band.

When it came time for audience questions I fielded comments from women and men who had grown up in the same impoverished areas as Stuart’s characters, whose joy at finally finding a story – two stories – that represented them was infectious. The whole room swelled with it. The........

© Evening Express


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