WATCH: Douglas Stuart at the Hay Festival Winter Weekend
"So much of my writing was born from a sense of loss and longing."
The Hay Festival, now in its 21st year, brings writers and readers together in a free digital space of thoughtful conversation, storytelling, comedy, and family fun. This year, the Festival has been streamed live with a star-studded line-up of speakers and performers, and is currently available for public viewing.
Below, Douglas Stuart is in conversation with the writer and broadcaster Natalie Haynes, about his debut novel Shuggie Bain, which was recently named the winner of the 2020 Booker Prize for Fiction.
Based on Stuart’s own childhood, Shuggie Bain tells the story of a young boy growing up in 1980s Glasgow with a mother who is battling addiction. Stuart, a former fashion designer who started writing in his spare time a decade ago, dedicated the book to his own mother, who died of alcoholism when he was 16.
From the video:
Douglas Stuart: It’s difficult to say how I made it to adulthood because children are just incredibly resilient. They have no idea of the situation they’re living through. And so they cope with whatever is in front of them. And children can bear much more than I think we believe they can. It’s only when you get to be an adult and you look back on things and you think to yourself “Man, that was hard” or “Why was that like that?” Or you realize from your peers that they didn’t grow up with the homophobic bullying or the poverty or the parent and addiction or they didn’t know how to bust into a gas meter at six years old because there was no food in the house.
And you don’t realize that as a kid, that’s just who you are and that’s how you’re going to get through the world. And it’s only later, with hindsight, that it becomes clear to you. But I wrote the book not necessarily for readers because I didn’t know if anyone would read the book. So I wrote it for the characters.