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20Nov

Booker winner Douglas Stuart: 'I owe Scotland everything'

The author of Shuggie Bain talks about growing up in Glasgow in the 80s, the dangers of ‘poverty safari’ and what he’ll do now he has won the prestigious literary prize

As a boy in working-class Glasgow, one of the ways Douglas Stuart learned to cope with his alcoholic mother’s mood swings was to pretend to write her memoir. They never got very far, but it always began with the dedication: “To Elizabeth Taylor, who knows nothing about love.” And so the seeds were sown for his debut novel Shuggie Bain, which was awarded the Booker prize this week.

“I never thought, using that trick 40 years ago, I’d be here talking to you about my book,” the author says on a Zoom call from New York, where he has lived for the last 20 years. Instead of the usual smart dinner at London’s Guildhall (Barack Obama made an appearance at the virtual ceremony), Stuart is tucking into a plate of ham and cheese his husband has made for him. He may have a celebratory glass of champagne later. “All these wonderful things keep happening and I’ve never left the sofa,” he says of life in lockdown.

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