Young Mungo

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Pub Date 14 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 13 Apr 2022

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'Prepare your hearts, for Douglas Stuart is back. After the extraordinary success of Shuggie Bain, his second novel, Young Mungo, is another beautiful and moving book, a gay Romeo and Juliet set in the brutal world of Glasgow’s housing estates.'

The extraordinary, powerful second novel from the Booker prizewinning author of Shuggie Bain, Young Mungo is both a vivid portrayal of working-class life and the deeply moving story of the dangerous first love of two young men: Mungo and James.

Born under different stars, Protestant Mungo and Catholic James live in a hyper-masculine world. They are caught between two of Glasgow’s housing estates where young working-class men divide themselves along sectarian lines, and fight territorial battles for the sake of reputation. They should be sworn enemies if they’re to be seen as men at all, and yet they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the doocot that James has built for his prize racing pigeons. As they begin to fall in love, they dream of escaping the grey city, and Mungo must work hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his elder brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold.

But the threat of discovery is constant and the punishment unspeakable. When Mungo’s mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland, with two strange men behind whose drunken banter lie murky pasts, he needs to summon all his inner strength and courage to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future.

Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism, Douglas Stuart’s Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the meaning of masculinity, the push and pull of family, the violence faced by so many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much.


'Prepare your hearts, for Douglas Stuart is back. After the extraordinary success of Shuggie Bain, his second novel, Young Mungo, is another beautiful and moving...

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ISBN 9781529068764
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

This is a book where the author dictates the ground rules, insisting that the reader fully experiences the numerous and contrasting emotions, and the pulls on the heartstrings that this story elicits. There are no hiding places from the pervasive toxic masculinity, the strains of family loyalties, the ever-near violence, and the dangers of falling in love. The prose is powerful and necessary; the storytelling authentic and piercing.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to review this book.

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I received a lovely physical proof of this from the publicist at Pan Macmillan, and also an e-arc on netgalley, all in return for an honest review (and, I have had it on pre-order for ages, a signed copy too!).

Ok so everyone pretty much knows now that Shuggie Bain is my favourite book, and I tell everyone who hasn’t read it that they need to. When I heard the news about Young Mungo, I knew I had to read it and was so excited when Camilla gave in to my cheekiness and sent me a proof (thank you).

I started reading Young Mungo as my first book of 2022. I read a few pages the first night, a few more the second, then devoured the last ¾ of the book in one day! I couldn’t put it down. Douglas Stuart writes with so much love. The book is filled with it, yet so much heartbreak too.

Young Mungo is 15, but he seems so much younger. My heart broke for him so many times during the story, I cried for him, and cheered him on. The book gives you so many emotions, it easily flips you from sadness to happiness in the same sentence. I loved the other characters too, James seems like a proper little Jack the lad, quietly mischievous, but not very noticeable to others. Jodie was one of my favourites. I love how much she cared for Mungo, she practically raises him, she’s like a mother to him. But their mother is also there, when she’s there. A strange one for sure, but as you read you see how she is in the situation she is and why, and even though sometimes you hate her, you also feel sorry for her. But Hamish, Mungo and Jodies older brother, wow. I pictured him so clearly. A bully with a secret heart.

The scene with the fighting had me on edge, my heart was in my throat. I will say no more. But the last third of the book was the best, it had me glued to the pages and I honestly didn’t move until I finished it all.

I’ve since been nursing a book hangover, and need Douglas Stuart to wrote another very quickly! Please read this book, it’s amazing, heartbreaking, warm and beautiful. And if you haven’t read Shuggie Bain already, why the hell not?!

Thank you Mr Stuart for another amazing book that will stick in my mind for a long long time.

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Despite already having three other books to read via NetGalley and a small army of library paperbacks on my desk, I was so excited to read Young Mungo that I couldn't let it wait for more than the time it took my phone to download the book. Having studied in Glasgow, the phonetical spellings of Glasweigan English and vivid descriptions of the city submerged me into the city I loved. More than just pointing out street names I walked down or lived on, there's a tangible nature to the setting that makes Glasgow feel like another character in the novel, neither a hero no antagonist, but an omnipresent being that shapes the lives of Mungo and those he interacts with.

Speaking of Mungo, here is a protagonist I whole-heartedly loved. He's used to being babied by those around him and I never questioned why: he's incredibly kind, loyal, and has a forgiving nature which could have been written as his downfall but, while it did bring him a lot of grief, it wasn't written as a flaw to overcome. Mungo's softness is something to protect. Although Mungo is the character that leads us through the story, he's not the only narrator and I never found the other narrators as lesser storytellers. Throughout the two timelines of the novel—one being Mungo on a fishing trip with two alcoholics, the other being Mungo in Glasgow with his family—every character is developed enough that each of their decisions makes sense. There is never the feeling of things happening for the sake of a plot, but rather the plot organically growing from the characters' worldview and actions.

As for the plot, I was a little trepidatious of another story of trauma and pain, where LGBT characters are used as fictional punching bags and are reminded how much the world hates them. While Douglas Stuart doesn't shy away from writing the cruelty and abuse that gay men face, this coming of age story has as much tenderness as it does tragedy. It definitely gets bleak and depressing at times, but the chosen pacing of the story (switching seamlessly between the two timelines) does offer the reader a temporary escape. As the two timelines begin to come together, a sense of cautiousness develops in the reader as enough hints have been given to explain how Mungo found himself on the fishing trip. We can guess what happens to Mungo and James before it happens, and the knowingness doesn't lessen the blow. Having said that, and without spoiling anything too much, the ending is still optimistic. While there's no explicit future laid out for Mungo's happy ending, there's definitely hope for one. I for one, imagined a 'and they lived happily ever after.'

All in all, I loved the characters and enjoyed the writing style. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book (but browse the content warnings beforehand) and while I would like to reread this at some point, I also look forward to whatever Stuart writes next.

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Shuggie Bain felt like a lightning-in-a-bottle read, but Douglas Stuart has done it again. I had such high expectations going into this books, and Stuart has smashed them! There are similarities in settings and themes to Shuggie, but it never feels like a retread and I adored all of it. The themes of alcoholism, homophobia and poverty are obviously a tough read at times, but Stuart laces the pathos with a perfect blend of hope, wit and characters that leap off the page.

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Another masterpiece from Douglas Stuart! Much like the brilliant Shuggie Bain, this is a bleak read in parts with intense content that some readers will find triggering, but like its predecessor, it's not without hope. Young Mungo tells the story of teenage Mungo Hamilton, a teenager Protestant boy from Glasgow who falls in love with a Catholic lad in the same housing scheme. Mungo navigates this divide and struggles within his family, while also in fear of his older brother Hamish, who is a notorious gang leader regularly beating Catholic gangs to a pulp.

There are a number of similarities with this and Shuggie Bain, particularly in regards to the family unit, but this is a hugely engrossing and affecting novel in its own right. The characterisation is just as strong but the love story gives it a different tenderness to Shuggie, one you spend the whole novel hoping will survive, despite the odds.

Thank you to NetGalley and Picador for this ARC in exchange for a fair review.

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