Dreich days: Glasgow's poverty-haunted streets are the setting for Douglas Stuart's novel
Dreich days: Glasgow's poverty-haunted streets are the setting for Douglas Stuart's novel Credit: Getty

三级成人视频Some people call alcoholism “a tragedy”, and others sneer at giving it such dignity. But calling the problem “tragic” doesn’t mean that it’s especially grand – it can seem repetitive and banal – just that alcoholics hurt those around them by making them witnesses. That’s the heart of a tragedy: its audience can’t change the story, they know it’s fiction, but they’re transfixed by it – even distressed.

三级成人视频Shuggie Bain, the debut novel by Douglas Stuart, is a tragedy, and – as it should be – a searing, upsetting work. It centres on the alcoholism of a middle-aged mother, and the desperation of her son. The setting is 1980s Glasgow, where Agnes Bain, a woman defined by her beauty and pride, and insistent on her claim to both, lives in the north-eastern housing estates. She begins in Sighthill, then moves to Pithead, a former mining community where the unemployed men are destroyed by drink, and the women are thin, brutal matriarchs who know “the keen edge of need”.

Agnes lives with her ravening thirst, and, as lesser priorities, her son Shuggie (aka Hugh) and his elder siblings, Leek (Alexander) and Catherine. There’s a string of men as well – Agnes’s giro is never enough for the lager bill – all of them low-lifes at best. The first is Big Shug (also Hugh), a taxi-driver and Shuggie’s father; then Eugene, another taxi-driver and Agnes’s next boyfriend; and later, as matters degrade, a line of casual abusers who stop by the Pithead house.

三级成人视频But Shuggie is her constant star. We first meet him in 1992; he’s 16 years old, and lives in a hostel, fending off seedy men. While trying to find work as a hairdresser, he’s doing shifts on a deli counter on Glasgow’s South Side. This is the prelude to a vast, magnificent flashback, which starts in 1981. In the back rooms of a stuffy flat are Catherine (17), Leek (15) and Shuggie (only 5); in the front is Agnes, drinking stout, already scorning it as “too slow a bus for where she wanted to go”.

三级成人视频Like any tragedy, or any addiction, Shuggie Bain seems predestined by a wicked god. Britain’s worst decade, unless you were a southerner, grinds slowly from year to year, and Agnes’s drinking builds. Cans of Special Brew are cracked open by lunch, and dregs in mugs are gulped through bile each dawn; between one start and the next is a frightening abyss.

Otherwise, time is punctuated by loss. Big Shug, unfaithful and violent, walks out for good; Catherine lands a husband, and emigrates to the Transvaal in South Africa. When Leek, a talented artist, finally escapes the house himself, he tells Shuggie, “Don’t make the same mistake as me. She’s never going to get better. When the time is right you have to leave.” People who love alcoholics will stay and bear it, until the day they can’t.

Shuggie Bain is Douglas Stuart's first novel Credit: Picador/Grove/Martin Pickersgill

But Shuggie remains with Agnes, because he’s never known her unruined, and his own being is an anxious thing. He was always “cannier” than other boys, as both he and his mother know; he was skimming her giro money at seven years old, to guarantee himself food when she left for the shop.

三级成人视频Something else was different, too. Before the raincoated men, there were furtive boys, made furious by shame at their own desires. Young Shuggie plays with a doll called Daphne; the miners’ boys call him a “poofter”, and several beat him up. Only in the final pages does the truth start to speak its name.

The streets of Pithead, an older Shuggie reflects at the novel’s close, had his family “stuck like flies on paper, bounding them in on four sides by nothing”. And nothing is on perpetual offer in this trashed economy and rotting city – a land of kids with no schooling, and festering adults, and a woman whose end was written in her opening scene. In one of many deft touches of dialect, Stuart describes Glasgow as dreich三级成人视频: dismal, drab or bleak.

And yet, throughout the story, tragedy is counterbalanced by light: the way Shuggie loves Agnes, with a love against hope, until events have run their course. The novel is an astonishing portrait, drawn from life, of a society left to die – forgotten by those who didn’t believe in society, and told it to care for itself. Shuggie Bain has been longlisted三级成人视频 for the Booker Prize. In a just world, it would win.

Shuggie Bain is published by Picador at £14.99. To order your copy, call 0844 871 1514 or