In the Début shortlist, this year’s Booker Prize winner is up against some “must-read” titles of the year. The authors tackled issues of racism, domestic slavery, prejudice, alcoholism and identity. Each of the shortlistees wrapped these complex themes in beautiful, sought-after packages and entertaining narratives, making it a tough category for this year’s judges.
Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain was a standout début in this category— and elsewhere, winning the Overall Book of the Year too. “It’s epic and important in its scope, scale and achievement,” was the verdict from the judges.
Inspired by the author’s own life and a desire to diversify literature to represent the working-class experience, Shuggie Bain follows the story of a family struggling to get by in 1980s Glasgow, and tackles themes of class, poverty, addiction and homophobia. Clearly the book resonated: it became the fifth début novel to win the Booker Prize. Judges were particularly touched by the publisher’s fervour for the book, and felt Picador’s acquisition — which followed rejection from 12 UK publishers — demonstrated its early recognition of the book’s potential, and showed it was prepared to champion an “uncompromising and complex” working-class narrative.
The marketing campaign demonstrated the team’s belief in the book too. It built an extensive long-lead word of mouth campaign to publicise it within the gay and Scottish press, as well as national newspapers and broadcast media. It sold more than 18,000 hardback copies before the Booker win, a figured that quintupled in the months following its triumph.
Ghosts by Dolly AldertonFig Tree
The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi DaréSceptre
Exciting Times by Naoise DolanW&N
Rainbow Milk by Paul MendezDialogue
Such a Fun Age by Kiley ReidBloomsbury Circus
Shuggie Bain by Douglas StuartPicador