Young Mungo

by Douglas Stuart is a dark, coming-of-age love story set against the grim backdrop of Glasgow’s slums in the early 1990s, a setting that Stuart also explored in his Booker Prize-winning 2020 novel Shuggie Bain. Fifteen-year-old Mungo is gay, growing up with an alcoholic mother in a social landscape where the definition of masculinity is rigid and is measured by the ability to inflict pain and violence. He falls in love with another boy, James, a relationship that’s forbidden not only because it’s homosexual but also because James is Catholic and Mungo is Protestant. In striking a balance between the tenderness of first love and the brutality of this hard, gritty world gripped by poverty, Stuart’s writing is unflinching in its honesty but also vivid and gorgeous.