Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Born under different stars, Protestant Mungo and Catholic James live in the hyper-masculine and violently sectarian world of Glasgow's housing estates. 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 pigeon dovecote that James has built for his prize racing birds. As they find themselves falling in love, they dream of escaping the grey city, and Mungo works especially 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 whose drunken banter belies murky pasts, he will need 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.

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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