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Book Cover for: Young Mungo, Douglas Stuart

Young Mungo

Douglas Stuart

Reader Score


86% of readers

recommend this book

Critic Reviews


Based on 36 reviews on

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Longlist:Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence -Fiction (2023)
A story of queer love and working-class families, Young Mungo is the brilliant second novel from the Booker Prize-winning author of Shuggie Bain

Acclaimed as one of the best books of the year by NPR, Kirkus Reviews, Time, and Amazon, and named a Top 10 Book of the Year by the Washington Post, Young Mungo is a brilliantly constructed and deeply moving story of queer love and working-class families by the Booker Prize-winning author of Shuggie Bain. Growing up in a housing estate in Glasgow, Mungo and James are born under different stars--Mungo a Protestant and James a Catholic--and they should be sworn enemies. Yet against all odds, they fall in love as they find sanctuary and dream of escape in the pigeon dovecote that James has built for his prize racing birds. But when Mungo's mother sends him on a fishing trip to a remote loch with two strange men, he will need all his strength and courage to find his way back to a place where he and James might still have a future.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Grove Press
  • Publish Date: Mar 21st, 2023
  • Pages: 416
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 8.20in - 5.40in - 1.30in - 0.90lb
  • EAN: 9780802162120
  • Categories: LGBTQ+ - GayLiteraryComing of Age

About the Author

DOUGLAS STUART is a Scottish-American author. His New York Times-bestselling debut novel Shuggie Bain won the 2020 Booker Prize and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. It was the winner of two British Book Awards, including Book of the Year, and was a finalist for the National Book Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, Kirkus Prize, as well as several other literary awards. Stuart's writing has appeared in the New Yorker and Literary Hub.

Critics’ reviews

Praise for this book

Praise for Young Mungo:

Shortlisted for the Polari Book Prize

Longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award

Longlisted for the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award

Named a Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post, NPR, Time, Kirkus Reviews, Guardian, Amazon, Apple, BookPage, BookBrowse, Library Journal, Reader's Digest, AARP, Hudson Booksellers, Chicago Public Library, and the Times (UK)

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Shortlisted for Scotland's National Book Award

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2022 by the New York Times, Time, Vogue, Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, Irish Times, Kirkus Reviews, and Literary Hub

"Young Mungo seals it: Douglas Stuart is a genius . . . A tale of romantic and sexual awakening punctuated by horrific violence. . . . The raw poetry of Stuart's prose is perfect to catch the open spirit of this handsome boy . . . Stuart quickly proves himself an extraordinarily effective thriller writer. He's capable of pulling the strings of suspense excruciatingly tight while still sensitively exploring the confused mind of this gentle adolescent trying to make sense of his sexuality . . . But even as Stuart draws these timelines together like a pair of scissors, he creates a little space for Mungo's future, a little mercy for this buoyant young man."--Ron Charles, Washington Post

"[A] bear hug of a new novel . . . It's a classic Dickensian arc: The unwanted young lad, hoping for better things, is caught up in broader violent schemes and made to choose between the life he wants for himself and the one set out before him . . . But novelists have been flaccidly imitating the 19th century realists for so long that it's a shock when one carries it out this successfully. Stuart oozes story. Mungo is alive. There is feeling under every word . . . This novel cuts you and then bandages you back up."--Hillary Kelly, Los Angeles Times

"The working-class 1980s Glasgow of Douglas Stuart's Booker Prize-winning debut Shuggie Bain is again the setting of his follow-up Young Mungo, and with it come the violence, religious tribalism, economic depression, diehard loyalties and fatalistic humor of the era, all expressed in the crooked poetry of Glaswegian dialect . . . The crafted storylines in Young Mungo develop with purpose and converge explosively, couching all the horror and pathos within a tighter, more gripping reading experience--an impressive advancement, in other words, from an already accomplished author."--Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

"A nuanced and gorgeous heartbreaker of a novel . . . It's a testament to Stuart's unsparing powers as a storyteller that we can't possibly anticipate how very badly--and baroquely--things will turn out. Young Mungo is a suspense story wrapped around a novel of acute psychological observation. It's hard to imagine a more disquieting and powerful work of fiction will be published anytime soon about the perils of being different."--Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air

"Young Mungo bridges the worlds of Stuart's earlier novel and stories . . . Stuart writes beautifully, with marvelous attunement to the poetry in the unlovely and the mundane . . . The novel conveys an enveloping sense of place, in part through the wit and musicality of its dialogue."--Yen Pham, New York Times Book Review

"Young Mungo is a finer novel than its predecessor, offering many of the same pleasures, but with a more sure-footed approach to narrative and a finer grasp of prose. There are sentences here that gleam and shimmer, demanding to be read and reread for their beauty and their truth . . . The way that Stuart builds towards exquisite set pieces, moments in time that take on an almost visionary aspect; the powerful and evocative descriptions of sex and nature in language that soars without ever feeling forced or purple; the manner in which he binds you into the lives of his characters, making even the most brutal and self-interested members of the family somehow not only forgivable, but lovable. I sobbed my way through Shuggie Bain and sobbed again as Young Mungo made its way towards an ending whose inevitability only serves to heighten its tragedy. If the first novel announced Stuart as a novelist of great promise, this confirms him as a prodigious talent."--Alex Preston, Guardian

"When a romance develops between two teenage boys (one Protestant, one Catholic) in a Glasgow housing project, the danger of discovery is all too real. Like Shuggie Bain, the author's acclaimed debut, this is a raw, tender and generous story of love and survival in tough circumstances."--People

"Exhilarating, heartbreaking . . . The book shares a few similarities with Shuggie Bain, but Young Mungo is more brutal, more suspenseful . . . An edgy, relentless urgency. The language is gorgeous, poetic, expertly evoking the dour streets of Glasgow and its people . . . Stuart shows us so much ugliness, but he offers a promise of hope, too. This book will hurt your heart, so reach for that hope."--Connie Ogle, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"The novels share a brutality and a squirmy, claustrophobic evocation of family life. And they offer a world of exquisite detail: If a perfume creator wished to bottle the olfactory landscape of post-Thatcher-era Glasgow, all the necessary ingredients could be found in Stuart's descriptions of sausage grease, fruity fortified wine, pigeon droppings and store-bought hair bleach . . . There is crazy greatness in Young Mungo."--Molly Young, New York Times

"A blazing marvel of storytelling, as strong and possibly stronger than his Booker Prize-winning debut . . . As affecting, original, and brilliantly written a novel as any we'll see in 2022 . . . From political hostilities to personal anguish, Stuart harmonizes his notes, pitch-perfect . . . There's jazz and bounce in his sentences--his cadences are rollicking, his dialogue often comic--but also a meticulous precision . . . I felt the same frisson as when I read works by other leading innovators, among them Kevin Barry, Hilary Mantel, Arundhati Roy, Ali Smith, and Colson Whitehead."--Hamilton Cain, Oprah Daily

"An excoriating study of how violence begets violence, a devastating story of how the abused and victimized become abusers or aggressors . . . [Stuart's] writing is so magnificent and his young hero so endearingly, vibrantly alive that we soldier on through Mungo's saga of endurance, weepingly inspired like watchers of a war zone, aching to assuage the survivor's ache, yearning to rescue him from the predations of his enemies, his vindictive older brother, and finally his own darker impulses."--Priscilla Gilman, Boston Globe

"Across the 800 pages of his two novels, Stuart has been inking a great Hogarthian print, a postmodern Scottish Gin Lane. He can be sardonically funny but he always gets back to scaring the hell out of you and breaking your heart . . . There is right now no novelist writing more powerfully than Douglas Stuart. A strong measure of his success lies in how the reader, while appreciating the artistry of each harrowing scene, continually thinks: Please let it end."--Thomas Mallon, Air Mail

"Page-turning, beautifully written . . . In a narrative that weaves seamlessly back and forth between the camping trip and Mungo's life before the trip, Stuart creates a world we can almost feel."--Deborah Dundas, Toronto Star

"Readers might fear that Stuart has written the same book a second time. In several obvious ways, that is true. But Stuart makes the small differences count, of which the most important is that Mungo is older than Shuggie, and beginning to see in his sexuality not just a source of difference and alienation but a possible route to escape and emancipation . . . The tension of the romance is expertly sustained, as is the sense of the real heroism of being a star-crossed lover in a Jets and Sharks world . . . The risk of sentimentality is always there, as it was in Shuggie Bain. But Young Mungo is a braver book, and more truthful, for his having taken that risk."--Telegraph

"Richly abundant. It spills over with colourful characters and even more colourful insults. And like a Dickens novel it has a moral vision that's expansive and serious while being savagely funny."--Times (UK)

"Stuart's deft, lyrical prose, and the flicker of hope that remains for Mungo, keep the reader turning the page."--The Economist

"The Sighthill tenement where Shuggie Bain, Stuart's Booker Prize-winning debut, unfurled is glimpsed in his follow-up, set in the 1990s in an adjacent neighborhood. You wouldn't think you'd be eager to return to these harsh, impoverished environs, but again this author creates characters so vivid, dilemmas so heart-rending, and dialogue so brilliant that the whole thing sucks you in like a vacuum cleaner . . . Romantic, terrifying, brutal, tender, and, in the end, sneakily hopeful. What a writer."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"The astonishing sophomore effort from Booker Prize winner Stuart details a teen's hard life in north Glasgow in the post-Thatcher years . . . Stuart's writing is stellar . . . He's too fine a storyteller to go for a sentimental ending, and the final act leaves the reader gutted. This is unbearably sad, more so because the reader comes to cherish the characters their creator has brought to life. It's a sucker punch to the heart."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A searing, gorgeously written portrait of a young gay boy trying to be true to himself in a place and time that demands conformity to social and gender rules . . . Stuart's tale could be set anywhere that poverty, socioeconomic inequality, or class struggles exist, which is nearly everywhere. But it is also about the narrowness and failure of vision in a place where individuals cannot imagine a better life, where people have never been outside their own neighborhood . . . Stuart's prize-winning, best-selling debut, Shuggie Bain, ensures great enthusiasm for his second novel of young, dangerous love."--Booklist (starred review)

"After the splendid Shuggie Bain, Stuart continues his examination of 1980s Glaswegian working-class life and a son's attachment to an alcohol-ravaged mother, with results as good yet distinctly different . . . In language crisper and more direct than Shuggie Bain's, if still spiked with startling similes, Stuart heightens his exploration of the sibling bond and the inexplicable hatred between Glasgow's Protestants and Catholics, while contrasting Mungo's tenderly conveyed queer awakening with the awful counterpart of sexual violence. Highly recommended."--Library Journal (starred review)

"Readers will be happy to learn that Stuart's follow-up, Young Mungo, is even stronger than his first book . . . A marvelous feat of storytelling, a mix of tender emotion and grisly violence that finds humanity in even the most fraught circumstances."--BookPage (starred review)

"Stuart shines in familiar territory, writing profoundly about love, brutality, strength and courage."--Newsweek

"Exploring themes of religious conflict, family tension, and the ever-present danger of attempting to live an authentic life, Stuart writes with the same power and economy of language he displayed in his debut. With characters that are exquisitely drawn and a story you won't be able to put down, this love story goes far beyond the conventional romance."--BuzzFeed

"Another triumph . . . With a gentleness that defies the hard-scrap poverty and social order around him, Mungo is a character you root for; Young Mungo feels both cinematic and so intimate you don't want it to end."--Amazon Book Review, "Editors' Picks"

"Prepare your hearts, for Douglas Stuart is back. After the extraordinary success of Shuggie Bain, his second novel, Young Mungo, is another beautiful and moving book, a gay Romeo and Juliet set in the brutal world of Glasgow's housing estates."--Observer

"I wasn't sure Young Mungo could live up to Shuggie Bain, but it surpasses it. Deeply harrowing but gently infused with hope and love. And so exquisitely written. It's a joy to watch, in real time, as Douglas Stuart takes his place as one of the greats of Scottish literature."--Nicola Sturgeon

"Few novels are as gutsy and gut-wrenching as Young Mungo in its depiction of a teenage boy who finds love amid family dysfunction, community conflict and the truly terrible predations of adults. Vividly realised and emotionally intense, this scorching novel is an urgent addition to the new canon of unsung stories."--Bernardine Evaristo, Booker Prize-winning author of Girl, Woman, Other

"Some novels can be admired, others enjoyed. But it is a rare thing to find a story so engrossing, bittersweet and beautiful that you do not so much read it, as experience it. It is this quality Young Mungo possesses--an intense, lovely, brutal thing. Stuart is a masterful storyteller."--Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of The Mercies

Praise for Shuggie Bain:

New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction
Named the Best Book of the Year at the British Book Awards 2021
Finalist for the National Book Award, the Kirkus Prize, the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel, the L.A. Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction
Shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal, the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, and the 2021 Rathbones Folio Prize
The Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year 2020
Shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Breakthrough Author Award
Named a Best Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times, NPR, TIME, BuzzFeed, the Economist, the Times (UK), the Independent (UK), the Daily Telegraph (UK), Barnes & Noble, Kirkus Reviews, the New York Public Library, the Chicago Public Library, and the Washington Independent Review of Books

"We were bowled over by this first novel, which creates an amazingly intimate, compassionate, gripping portrait of addiction, courage and love. The book gives a vivid glimpse of a marginalized, impoverished community in a bygone era of British history. It's a desperately sad, almost-hopeful examination of family and the destructive powers of desire."--Booker Prize Judges

"This year's breakout debut . . . It has drawn comparisons to D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, and Frank McCourt."--Alexandra Alter, New York Times

"I'm really, really stunned by it. It's so good. I think it's the best first book I've read in many years . . . It's a heartbreaking story, and quite hard to read at times, but it's almost like it's uplifting on behalf of literature. And it's written with great warmth and compassion for the characters."--Karl Ove Knausgaard, Guardian

"The body--especially the body in pain--blazes on the pages of Shuggie Bain . . . This is the world of Shuggie Bain, a little boy growing up in Glasgow in the 1980s. And this is the world of Agnes Bain, his glamorous, calamitous mother, drinking herself ever so slowly to death. The wonder is how crazily, improbably alive it all is . . . The book would be just about unbearable were it not for the author's astonishing capacity for love. He's lovely, Douglas Stuart, fierce and loving and lovely. He shows us lots of monstrous behavior, but not a single monster--only damage. If he has a sharp eye for brokenness, he is even keener on the inextinguishable flicker of love that remains . . . The book leaves us gutted and marveling: Life may be short, but it takes forever."--Leah Hager Cohen, New York Times Book Review

"A debut novel that reads like a masterpiece."--Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post

"A novel that cracks open the human heart, brings you inside, tears you up, and brings you up, with its episodes of unvarnished love, loss, survival and sorrow."--Scott Simon, NPR's "Weekend Edition"

"Agnes Bain [is] the unforgettable human train wreck at the center of Douglas Stuart's novel Shuggie Bain . . . Titling the novel after Shuggie rather than the woman who dominates him seems like a small gesture of defiance on Mr. Stuart's part . . . Mr. Stuart vividly inhabits the city's singular 'Weegie' dialect and vocabulary . . . It's the obstinate Bain pride that prevents this novel from becoming a wallow in victimhood and gives it its ruined dignity."--Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

"The domestic spaces, the blighted landscape, the meanness of people, the bullying at school, the constant threat of violence, all add up to a picture of misery. Against this, however, there is an undercurrent that becomes more and more powerful, as Stuart, with great subtlety, builds up an aura of tenderness in the relationship between helpless Shuggie and his even more helpless mother . . . By drawing Agnes and Shuggie with so much texture, he makes clear that neither mother nor son can be easily seen as a victim. Instead, they emerge forcefully; they are fully, palpably present."--Colm Tóibín, Bookforum

"Astonishingly good, one of the most moving novels in recent memory."--Hillary Kelly, Los Angeles Times

"The tough portraits of Glaswegian working-class life from William McIlvanney, James Kelman, Alasdair Gray, and Agnes Owens can be felt in Shuggie Bain without either overshadowing or unbalancing the novel . . . Stuart's capacity for allowing wild contradictions to convincingly coexist is also on display in the individual vignettes that comprise the novel, blending the tragic with the funny, the unsparing with the tender, the compassionate with the excruciating. He can even pull off all of them in a single sentence . . . This overwhelmingly vivid novel is not just an accomplished debut. It also feels like a moving act of filial reverence."--James Walton, New York Review of Books

"Rarely does a debut novel establish its world with such sure-footedness, and Stuart's prose is lithe, lyrical, and full of revelatory descriptive insights . . . Reading Shuggie Bain entails a kind of archaeology, sifting through the rubble of the lives presented to find gems of consolation, brief sublime moments when the characters slip the bonds of their hardscrabble existence. That the book is never dismal or maudlin, notwithstanding its subject matter, is down to the buoyant life of its two principal characters, the heart and humanity with which they are described. Douglas Stuart has written a first novel of rare and lasting beauty."--Alex Preston, Guardian

"Douglas Stuart drags us through the 1980s childhood of 'a soft boy in a hard world' in a series of vivid, effective scenes . . . Shuggie Bain is a novel that aims for the heart and finds it. As a novel it's good, as a debut very good, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it progress from Booker longlist to shortlist."--John Self, Times (UK)

"Not only does [Stuart] clearly know his characters, he clearly loves them . . . Stuart describes their life with compassion and a keen ear for language . . . Such is Stuart's talent that this painful, sometimes excruciating story is often quite beautiful."--Barbara Lane, San Francisco Chronicle

"Shuggie Bain is Douglas Stuart's first novel, as intense and excruciating to read as any novel I have ever held in my hand . . . This novel is as much about Glasgow as it is about Shuggie and his impossible mother . . . The book's evocative power arises out of the author's talent for conjuring a place, a time, and the texture of emotion, and out of its language which is strewn with a Glaswegian argot sodden with desolation and misery . . . This is a hard, grim book, brilliantly written and, in the end, worth the pain which accompanies reading it."--Katherine A. Powers, Newsday

"With his exquisitely detailed debut novel, Douglas Stuart has given Glasgow something of what James Joyce gave to Dublin. Every city needs a book like Shuggie Bain, one where the powers of description are so strong you can almost smell the chip-fat and pub-smoke steaming from its pages, and hear the particular, localized slang ringing in your ears . . . It turns over the ugly side of humanity to find the softness and the beauty underneath . . . This beauty, against all odds, survives."--Eliza Gearty, Jacobin

"An atmospheric epic set in 1980s working-class Glasgow, Shuggie Bain, a debut novel by Douglas Stuart, focuses on the relationship between a mother and son as she battles alcoholism and he grapples with his sexuality. It's a formidable story, lyrically told, about intimacy, family, and love."--Elle

"A dysfunctional love story--an interdependence whose every attempt to thrive is poisoned whenever a drink is poured--but here, between a boy and his mother. Stuart's debut stands out for its immersion into working-class Glaswegian life, but what makes his book a worthy contender for the Booker is his portrayal of their bond, together with all its perpetual damage."--Maria Crawford, Financial Times

"Magnificent . . . Its richly rendered events will give you a lot to talk about."--O Magazine

"This is a panoramic portrait of both a family and a place, and Stuart steeps us fully in the grim decline of the Thatcher years: cheap booze, closed pits and lives lived on tick . . . Tender and unsentimental--a rare trick--and the Billy Elliot-ish character of Shuggie, when he does take the floor, leaps off the page."--Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail

"Terrifically engrossing . . . A cracking coming-of-age story--a survivor's tale you won't be able to put down."--Anthony Cummins, Metro

"A heartbreaking story about identity, addiction, and abandonment."--TIME

"An instant classic. A novel that takes place during the Thatcher years and, in a way, defines it. A novel that explores the underbelly of Scottish society. A novel that digs through the grit and grime of 1980s Glasgow to reveal a story that is at once touching and gripping. Think D.H. Lawrence. Think James Joyce . . . A literary tour de force."--Washington Independent Review of Books

"Douglas's sharp narrative perspective moves from character to character, depicting each internally and externally with astute grace, giving a complex understanding of the dynamics of the Bain family . . . Shuggie Bain is a master class in depicting the blinding dedications of love and the endless bounds to which people will go to feel in control, to feel better. It hopefully sets the tone for more beautifully devastating works of fiction to follow from Stuart in the future."--Columbia Journal

"Heartfelt and harrowing . . . [A] visceral, emotionally nuanced portrayal of working class Scottish life and its blazingly intimate exploration of a mother-son relationship."--Literary Hub

"The way Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting carved a permanent place in our heads and hearts for the junkies of late-1980s Edinburgh, the language, imagery, and story of fashion designer Stuart's debut novel apotheosizes the life of the Bain family of Glasgow . . . The emotional truth embodied here will crack you open. You will never forget Shuggie Bain. Scene by scene, this book is a masterpiece."--Kirkus Review (starred review)

"Compulsively readable . . . In exquisite detail, the book describes the devastating dysfunction in Shuggie's family, centering on his mother's alcoholism and his father's infidelities, which are skillfully related from a child's viewpoint . . . As it beautifully and shockingly illustrates how Shuggie ends up alone, this novel offers a testament to the indomitable human spirit. Very highly recommended."--Library Journal (starred review)

"Douglas Stuart's anxious novel is both a tragedy and a survival story. Shuggie is as neglected as Glasgow, but through his mother's demise, he discovers his strength. Shuggie Bain celebrates taking charge of one's own destiny."--Bookpage

"Stuart's harrowing debut follows a family ravaged by addiction in Glasgow during the Thatcher era . . . There are flashes of deep feeling that cut through the darkness . . . Will resonate with readers."--Publishers Weekly

"There's no way to fake the life experience that forms the bedrock of Douglas Stuart's wonderful Shuggie Bain. No way to fake the talent either. Shuggie will knock you sideways."--Richard Russo, author of Chances Are

"Every now and then a novel comes along that feels necessary and inevitable. I'll never forget Shuggie and Agnes or the incredibly detailed Glasgow they inhabit. This is the rare contemporary novel that reads like an instant classic. I'll be thinking and talking about Shuggie Bain--and teaching it--for quite some time."--Garrard Conley, New York Times-bestselling author of Boy Erased

"A rare and haunting ode to 1980s Glasgow and its struggling communities, Shuggie Bain tells the story of a collapsing family that is lashed together by love alone. Douglas Stuart writes with startling, searing intimacy. I fell hard for these characters; when they have nothing left, they cling maddeningly--irresistibly--to humor, pride and hope."--Chia-Chia Lin, author of The Unpassing

"Shuggie Bain is an intimate and frighteningly acute exploration of a mother-son relationship and a masterful portrait of alcoholism in Scottish working class life, rendered with old-school lyrical realism. Stuart is a writer who genuinely loves his characters and makes them unforgettable and touching even when they're at their worst. He's also just a beautiful writer; I kept being reminded of Joyce's Dubliners. I loved this book."--Sandra Newman, author of The Heavens

"A dark shining work. Raw, formidable, bursting with tenderness and frailty. The effect is remarkable, it will make you cry."--Karl Geary, author of Montpelier Parade