Scottish author Douglas Stuart wins the Booker Prize 2020 for Shuggie Bain

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Douglas Stuart has won the Booker Prize for his debut novel Shuggie Bain.

This year’s judges unanimously chose the Scottish writer to win the award.

Shuggie Bain, which is based on Stuart’s childhood, is set in Glasgow in the 1980s and tells the story of a young boy growing up with a mother who is battling addiction.

The author explores poverty, tough upbringings and alcoholism in his book.

Margaret Busby, chair of the judging panel, described the novel as “daring, frightening and life-changing”.

She added: “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.

“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

“Gracefully and powerfully written, this is a novel that has impact because of its many emotional registers and its compassionately realised characters.

“The poetry in Douglas Stuart’s descriptions and the precision of his observations stand out: nothing is wasted.”

This year the shortlist was dominated by US authors and debut novels.

Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar and Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King were also in the running for the £50,000 prize.

The New Wilderness by Diane Cook, Tsitsi Dangarembga’s This Mournable Body and Real Life by Brandon Taylor were also in line for the award.

Dame Hilary Mantel failed to make the shortlist with the third book in her Cromwell trilogy The Mirror And The Light.

Shuggie Bain was the bookie’s favourite to win at 3 to 1, while The Shadow King and This Mournable Body were considering next most likely at 4 to 1 and 5 to 1 respectively, according to NicerOdds.

Real Life (6 to 1) and The New Wilderness (8 to 1) were next up, with Burnt Sugar considered the longest shot.

Doshi, Cook, Stuart and Taylor are debut novelists and four out of the six shortlisted authors are US based.

Burnt Sugar tells the story of the shifting power dynamics in a mother-daughter relationship and The Shadow King is about an orphan living in Ethiopia amid the threat of invasion by Mussolini.

The New Wilderness deals with climate change and Real Life tackles abuse, racism, homophobia, trauma, grief and alienation.

The 2019 prize was jointly won by Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other.

Speaking at this year’s ceremony Evaristo said she “formed a bond straight away” with her co-winner Margaret Atwood.

Reflecting on her victory, she added: “My daily life hasn’t changed, I still do the laundry, watch television in the evening and so on, but I feel like I was launched out into the world as a writer.”

Former US president Barack Obama addressed the ceremony to share his thoughts on the importance of reading.

He said he has “always turned to writing to make sense of our world”.

“At their best, Booker Prize-listed books remind me of fiction’s power to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, understand their struggles and imagine new ways to tackle complex problems and affect change,” he said.

Mr Obama added: “I want to salute the work of the Booker Prize Foundation to encourage people to read more fiction and promote the art of reading for the public benefit.”

The former politician said he had read many books previously nominated for the prize.

The Duchess of Cornwall also addressed the ceremony in a pre-recorded video message.

Camilla said: “While Covid deprived us of so many cultural pleasures, live music, theatre, cinema, art galleries, even being together in the flesh this evening, we have, at least, been able to read.

“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.

“For all these reasons, this year’s Booker Prize is even more important than usual.”