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And the Winner Is…

Booker Prize 2020

The Booker Prize for 2020 has been awarded to Shuggie Bain, the debut novel by Douglas Stuart.

It is 1981. Glasgow is dying and good families must grift to survive. Agnes Bain has always expected more from life. She dreams of greater things: a house with its own front door and a life bought and paid for outright (like her perfect, but false, teeth). But Agnes is abandoned by her philandering husband, and soon she and her three children find themselves trapped in a decimated mining town. As she descends deeper into drink, the children try their best to save her, yet one by one they must abandon her to save themselves. It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest.

Shuggie is different. Fastidious and fussy, he shares his mother’s sense of snobbish propriety. The miners’ children pick on him and adults condemn him as no’ right. But Shuggie believes that if he tries his hardest, he can be normal like the other boys and help his mother escape this hopeless place.

Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain lays bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride. A counterpart to the privileged Thatcher-era London of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, it also recalls the work of Edouard Louis, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, a blistering debut by a brilliant writer with a powerful and important story to tell.

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020

The Women’s Prize for Fiction was awarded on 9 September to Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing 2020

The winner for the Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing was announced at a virtual awards ceremony on September 8th

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty chronicles the turning of the then 15-year-old’s world and breaks the mould of modern nature writing. As the youngest ever winner of a major literary prize, Dara’s book is an extraordinary portrayal of his intense connection to the natural world alongside his perspective as an autistic teenager juggling exams, friendships and a life of campaigning. 

“I read this when it was first published and was blown away by the intensity of observation of the natural world and the vivid depiction of how the world looks to someone with autism. Amazing to realise it was written by someone so young (15!), wonderful to hear the next generation fighting for a better world and a very worthy winner. One of my favourite books this year”. (Diane – Sevenoaks Bookshop bookseller)

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Books to Screen

The book was better – no, the film was better! Read the books first, or after, it really doesn’t matter! Here are some of our favourite books/adaptations…

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Special Editions: Signed by the Author

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