What a year it has been in the literary world.
From Zadie Smith swiftly reacting to the pandemic with a new set of powerful essays, to Maggie O’Farrell taking the Women’s Prize with her eighth novel Hamnet, and Marcus Rashford launching a book club for children from disadvantaged backgrounds – books have once more brought light during a dark and worrying time.
For a lot of people, escaping in a good book has been the perfect way to switch off and relax in lockdown. We’ve been stocking up on new novels and memoirs from independent bookshops, constantly topping up that reading pile on the bedside table.
That’s why bookworms will be excited to hear that the Booker Prize for Fiction 2020 winner has just been announced, giving us another reason to order a new novel.
This year’s shortlist for the Prize, which was released back in September, included:
- Diane Cook (USA), The New Wilderness, Oneworld Publications
- Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe), This Mournable Body, Faber & Faber
- Avni Doshi (USA), Burnt Sugar, Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House
- Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia/USA), The Shadow King, Canongate Books
- Douglas Stuart (Scotland/USA), Shuggie Bain, Picador, Pan Macmillan
- Brandon Taylor (USA), Real Life, Originals, Daunt Books Publishing
It has now been announced that Dougie Stuart has won the Booker Prize for Fiction 2020 with his debut novel, Shuggie Bain, which is about a boy in 1980s Glasgow trying to support his mother as she struggles with addiction and poverty.
Stuart, who grew up in Glasgow, moved to New York to start his career in fashion design. His writing has appeared in LitHub and The New Yorker, including a recently published short story The Englishman. He has previously said that the 1994 Booker winner How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman changed his life as it was one of the first times he saw his people and dialect on the page.
As reported by BBC News, Stuart was “absolutely stunned” to win. He said: “For 30 years I’ve carried a lot of loss and love and pain, so I wanted to say what it is like… to write this has been hugely cathartic”.
Currently living in America, he said he is hoping the prize money will help him “focus on my writing”, which will now be his main career, as well as help him return to Glasgow. He added: “I married an American which is why I’m here but my heart is in Scotland. My family are all still there. I’m always looking for a way home.”
Chair of judges Margaret Busby said the judges’ decision was unanimous and they only “took an hour to decide”.
She explained: “It’s dealing with [a] tough subject matter, with characters not having an easy time – some of the things that happen will make you smile but it’s not one where everyone lives happily ever after. It’s not a pleasant read, but it’s a hopeful read, challenging, intimate, gripping.”
But of course, although this might be first on your reading list, every single title in the Booker prize 2020 longlist is worthy of your reading pile, especially as nine of the 13 authors were women.
It’s a good job we have at least two more weeks of lockdown to use as an excuse for reading hibernation, eh?
Images: Booker Prize