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Mungo and the Picture Book Pirates

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I never read Shuggie Bain but saw it got lots of accolades. So, I was excited to listen to Stuart’s second book, Young Mungo. But I really struggled with it. It’s not a bad book. In fact, it’s incredibly well written. But it’s such a sad, deep, dark, ugly, depressing story, I had to force myself to keep with it at times. Beyond these sat the broken promises of Sighthill. The high-rise towers were only twenty years old and were already in a state of disrepair. They were the tallest buildings Mungo had ever seen. The tops of them disappeared into the dense clouds, like a stairway to somewhere above the endless rain, or like a strut trying to keep the ceiling of dark cumulus from collapsing and suffocating the entire city." Religion plays a role in both with interestingly mothers that seem far less concerned at crossing the religious divide than those around them.

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart | Waterstones Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart | Waterstones

But she disappears for weeks at a time, leaving them with no food and bills piling up. She was in her mid-teens when she had her babies, and she wants to party and be young and single. Jodie felt the floor tilt underneath her. Like a gable end slated for demolition, the front facade of her fell away and the private contents of her life rolled out. She was being torn down, and every mismatched bed sheet in her mind was to be exposed for all to see." year old Mungo is the youngest of three siblings. With an absent dad and an uncaring alcoholic mom, Mungo grows up primarily bonding with his 17 year old sister Jodie, who is forced to take care of the home along with her studies. Their elder brother Hamish is a gang leader and head of a Protestant group that engages in violent fights against a neighbouring Catholic gang.But in a fiercely violent masculine and heterosexual working class world, one ironically made only the fiercer and more violent by the otherwise emasculating impact of the Thatcher-era cuts on the heavy industry that built the culture: Mungo’s even bigger struggle is to somehow conform to the conventions and expectations of others (not the least Ha-Ha), when he himself is sensitive, artistic, nervous (with a facial tic which may be Tourette’s and a number of other compulsive behaviours) and increasingly aware of his attraction to his own sex. The book doesn’t feel like effortless writing. It tries too hard to justify the tag of 'literary fiction' and is just as verbose as the blurb indicates. Some analogies work. Most are superfluous and/or superficial. Flowery prose appeals to me only if it is accompanied by a strong plot. When there are miles and miles of prose and barely any signs of a plot, I lose my interest. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who was her Scottish secretary from 1986-1990, famously said in one interview about the Scottish view of Thatcher: "She was a woman, she was an English woman and she was a bossy English woman and they could probably put up with one of these but three simultaneously was a bit too much."

Young Mungo — Douglas Stuart

His short stories have been published by The New Yorker. His essays on Gender, Class and Anxiety are featured on Lit Hub. If it’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s snobbery and one-upmanship. People trying to pretend they’re superior. Makes it so much harder for those of us who are”.The story alternates between May (sometime in the 1990s) and January, a few months before, the period which obviously leads up to his being sent off camping to toughen up.

Young Mungo: 100 Must-Read Books of 2022 | TIME

It’s a deeply felt - heartbreaking-powerful & beautiful complicated story of a young gay man dealing with traditionalism, tolerance, open-mindedness, responsiveness, observance, freethinking, noncompliance, and ‘young love’….. When Mungo and Jodie go to her rescue by fabricating an excuse as to why she is needed in their flat, and Mungo innocently asks as to why she stays with the bastard, Mrs Campbell launches into a long diatribe justifying her husband’s appalling behaviour: “Ye’re too wee to know anything about men and their anger.”The blurb makes it seem like it's a forbidden love story between a Protestant boy and a Catholic one. This forms just a small part of the storyline. The main story is more like a bildungsroman, but not in a good way. The temporal setting is for me fascinating and important. “Shuggie Bain” was set over the period 1981-1992 with Shuggie from 5-15. No year is specified her but an Auld-Firm reference sets the book firmly in 1992-93 with Mungo approaching 16: so that in both calendar years and ages this book is a sequel to “Shuggie Bain”. I'm also happy to say that despite the bleakness that permeates the novel, it's not without hope! I really loved the ending, and the moments that Mungo shares with his downstairs neighbor, a closeted gay man who is ridiculed by the community but whom Mungo comes to understand more deeply as the novel goes on.

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