Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart – 29.05.21

This was my book group read for June. One of the reasons I’m so behind on writing up my book reviews at the moment is because I was working full time from the beginning of February until the end of June teaching in a primary school in a really deprived interface area of West Belfast. I was the hardest five months of my life, unlike anything I’ve done before because the children just had so many social, emotional and educational needs – such a concentration of behavioural and learning problems. Each day was exhausting, and although I became very attached to and fond of the children in my class, they were hard work. So in the middle of all that, I read this book. Wow.

It is set in the tenements of Glasgow, which very much like some parts of West Belfast is beset with poverty, sectarianism and deprivation. Told from the point of view of ‘Shuggie’ a child at the beginning of the book who acts as carer for his alcoholic mother the book is not an easy read. It certainly touched a nerve with me, being so close to the situation of many of the children I was working with, and I found it hard to read because I wasn’t in a strong enough emotional state to cope with Shuggie’s tragic situation as well as the other things I was dealing with day to day.

I was so annoyed with the well meaning boyfriend who ultimately caused Shuggie’s mother the most harm. and the so many ways in which people in hardship are trapped and doomed. It’s a well written book, but depressing. I guess I would recommend it, and I might have enjoyed (or appreciated) it more myself if I’d read it when I wasn’t so stressed anyway!).

Published by sarahrwray

I'm an erstwhile writer and forever reader and book reviewer.

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