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From Booker-prizewinner Douglas Stuart an extraordinary, page-turning second novel, a vivid portrayal of working-class life and a highly suspenseful story of the dangerous first love of two young men: Mungo and James.
Born under different stars, Protestant Mungo and Catholic James live in the hyper-masculine and violently sectarian world of Glasgow's housing estates. They should be sworn enemies if they're to be seen as men at all, and yet they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the pigeon dovecote that James has built for his prize racing birds. As they find themselves falling in love, they dream of escaping the grey city, and Mungo works especially hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his elder brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold.
But the threat of discovery is constant and the punishment unspeakable. When Mungo's mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland with two strange men whose drunken banter belies murky pasts, he will need to summon all his inner strength and courage to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future.
Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism and giving full voice to people rarely acknowledged in literary fiction, Douglas Stuart's Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the bounds of masculinity, the push and pull of family, the violence faced by so many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much.
Author: Douglas Stuart
Paperback Published 12 April 2022 400 pages
Read and Recommended by Graeme:
"The cover image on this highly anticipated new novel by the 2020 Booker Prize Winner is a famous photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans of two gay men kissing in a London club. It’s bold and striking but somewhat deceptive as Mungo the main character is only 15-years-old. The cover leads you to anticipate a storyline about young gay men, not teens. However this is no Heartstopper romance! Readers should be prepared to re-enter the grim world of Shuggie Bain, back in working-class Glasgow on a housing estate with a mother who hits the bottle hard and occasionally vanishes leaving her children to fend for themselves. Although you could dismiss the book as ‘just more of the same’ keep in mind that the gay working-class experience is very seldom explored in fiction - the only other name that springs to mind is the French novelist Edouard Louis - and certainly not with such raw authenticity and literary finesse. The narrative of Young Mungo could be triggering for some readers - there is extreme violence, cruelty and homophobia and also a storyline involving a fishing trip which the reader just knows is not going to end happily. Yet this is balanced by another narrative strand which unfolds Mungo’s friendship with a slighter older neighbourhood boy James which begins to develop into something more. There are also frequent flashes of humour, joy and beauty which offset the grimmer moments. The writing is gloriously good and also conjures up images that will stay with you long after you close the book. As the novel builds to its conclusion, it appears to be heading towards some ghastly tragedy, yet Douglas Stewart brings the various narrative strands together in an extremely satisfying way, leaving the reader with hope and perhaps a tear or two in their eyes."
'I wasn't sure Young Mungo could live up to Shuggie Bain, but it surpasses it. Deeply harrowing but gently infused with hope & 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(First Minister of Scotland) on Instagram/Twitter
'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
‘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
'I can honestly say that the second novel from the author of Shuggie Bain... surpassed my (high) expectations. Stuart makes you care deeply about all of his characters but none more than Mungo, Mo-Maw's beloved, "the softest, sweetest boy she had ever known".'- Bookseller, 'Fiction Book of the Month'
'Prepare your hearts, for Douglas Stuart is back... Another beautiful and moving book'-Observer
'There are wonderful stories in publishing, but the story of Douglas Stuart is pure magic... With Young Mungo... more magic is all but guaranteed... The book is a literary wonder and a suspenseful page-turner.' -Publishers' Weekly
‘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
‘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... Stuart has put working-class Glasgow on the literary map.’ -Booklist starred review