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I probably don't need to explain too much about this: Booker winner, writer lives in US but grew up in poverty in Glasgow with an alcoholic mother, and this is the subject matter of the novel.

It's gritty and grim, and it doesn't shy away from the rough side of life. The bulk of the novel covers Shuggie's childhood in a mining village where they moved to try to help Agnes escape her demons. 

I suppose it is clever, thoughtful, perceptive characterisation of a woman in crisis. There are definitely set pieces that will stay with me, and the last 100 pages or so were very moving.

But it is grim! I found it hard going. I know Stuart says he wasn't trying to write a poverty safari, but that was how it read to me in large chunks. I grew up in a council scheme in the 70s and 80s, and I have taught for 30 years in a community blighted by the loss of mining and heavy industry. There is more light and shade in working class life than he allows for here. Anyone reading this could easily come away believing that council schemes (and tenements) are full of dirty, hungry kids and drunk, promiscuous and abusive adults. There were few of the people I mostly knew: proud people, managing on what they had, keeping their house and their weans pristine. Running a wee car and putting away enough for a fortnight in Benidorm. Kids sticking in at school and being the first in their family to go to uni. Yes, there were men "rotting into the sofa" as he puts it, and there was the alcoholic three doors down who regularly put in the windows. But there was also a collection to help with funeral expenses when someone died, and big kids to walk the wee kids to school. Shuggie Bain had a tough life, but it's hard to take this one dimensional presentation of working class Scotland. 

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