The Booker Prize for the year 2020 was announced on 19th November. It was awarded to Douglas Stuart for his debut novel Shuggie Bain. It is a heartbreaking portrayal of a dysfunctional family in Glasgow, suffering the agonising pains and despair of the Thatcher era in the 1980s.
Shuggie Bain is destined to be a classic — a moving, immersive and nuanced portrait of a tight-knit social world, its people and its values // Margaret Busby
The star-studded ceremony without walls took place in the London Roundhouse. Stuart accepted the £50,000, a trophy, and a designer-bound edition of his book via a screen. Margaret Busby chaired the judging panel. It also included Lee Child, Sameer Rahim, Lemn Sissay and Emily Wilson. The Prize was first awarded in 1969. Its aim was to stimulate the reading and discussion of contemporary fiction to provide a central ground to Anglophone culture. Read more about The Booker Prize here.
‘The heart-wrenching story tells of the unconditional love between Agnes Bain — set on a descent into alcoholism by the tough circumstances life has dealt her — and her youngest son. Shuggie struggles with responsibilities beyond his years to save his mother from herself, at the same time as dealing with burgeoning feelings and questions about his own otherness. Gracefully and powerfully written, this is a novel that has impact because of its many emotional registers and its compassionately realised characters. The poetry in Douglas Stuart’s descriptions and the precision of his observations stand out: nothing is wasted.’ Margaret Busby said these words about the touching 2020 prizewinner. Following are the other books shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor
An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, Wallace has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. Four years into his biochem degree, he has distanced away his friends too. But one late-summer weekend, confrontations force Wallace to grapple with both the trauma of the past and the question of the future.
The New Wilderness by Diane Cook
A blazing lament of our contempt for nature, The New Wilderness explores a mother-daughter population in a premise of overpopulation and climate change. Bea discovers her 5-year-old daughter Agnes wasting away in a populated metropolis. So she makes her join a group of volunteers in the Wilderness State which brings Agnes closer to nature. But Bea realises that saving her daughter’s life means losing her in a different way.
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
After a wild youth, Tara abandoned her loveless marriage to join an ashram to spite her parents. She spent years chasing a homeless artist, all with her young child in tow. But now she is growing irresponsible and her grown-up daughter has to take care of a woman who never cared for her. Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Avni Doshi tests the limits of what we can know for certain about those we are closest to, and by extension, about ourselves.
This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga
After leaving a stagnant job, Tambudzai finds herself living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe. But her living conditions soon force her to return to her parents’ impoverished homestead. It is this homecoming that culminates in an act of betrayal, revealing just how toxic the combination of colonialism and capitalism can be.
The Shadow King by Maanga Mengiste
Set during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, The Shadow King casts light on the women soldiers written out of African and European history. Recently orphaned Hirut struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid in Army Officer Kidane’s household. As the war begins and the Emperor goes into exile, Ethiopia quickly loses hope. it is Hirut who offers a plan to maintain morale. She helps disguise a gentle peasant as the emperor and soon becomes his guard, inspiring other women to take up arms against the Italians. What follows is a captivating exploration of female power, and what it means to be a woman at war.
ALSO READ: The International Man Booker Prize 2020
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