By Douglas Stuart
My rating: 2 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.49
Genre: LGBT Cultural Fiction
Format Read: Ebook
Goodreads summary: Growing up in a housing estate in Glasgow, Mungo and James are born under different stars–Mungo a Protestant and James a Catholic–and they should be sworn enemies if they’re to be seen as men at all. Yet against all odds, they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the pigeon dovecote that James has built for his prize racing birds. As they fall in love, they dream of finding somewhere they belong, while Mungo works hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his big brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold. And when several months later 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 try to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future.
Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism and giving full voice to people rarely acknowledged in the literary world, Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the bounds of masculinity, the divisions of sectarianism, the violence faced by many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much.
Find the book: Amazon | Goodreads
Content warnings (highlight over below line to read):
Rape, sexual violence, abuse, alcoholism, homophobia
Let me start off by saying that I do not believe the harshness of my personal rating is reflective of the quality of the book. This is a rare instance where I think Young Mungo is probably a great story, it just was not the story for me at the time I decided to read it. Douglas Stuart’s novel is about a boy named Mungo who grew up in Glasgow and pursues an ill fated relationship with a boy named James, and is subjected to many misadventures along the way. His family is made up of his alcoholic mother, his abusive brother, and the sister who is attempting to manage them all.
When I read the description of this book, I thought it was going to be more or less a love story. Instead, it was more of a look into the lives of poor Glasgowians as a whole, in my opinion. The story was also DARK. I knew the romance may not have gone well, but there are trigger warnings abound for this novel. There is rarely a happy moment in the entire thing. I had read 40% of the way through before even getting to a scene which I enjoyed reading.
All of the dialog is also written using local dialect. The spelling is done so that you’re forced to read it the way people are talking. This made the book (which was already too slow for me) impossible to skim read. I think if it hadn’t been such a difficult read in terms of dialog, this may have been rated higher because I would have been able to breeze through the parts I didn’t like for the ones I genuinely did.
That being said, I think the plot of this novel was well crafted, and that Douglas Stuart is a good writer. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a dark story of trials and tribulations that follows a budding gay narrator. If you’re looking for a romance, I would say to skip this one.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Knowing all that we know about Douglas’ first novel, Shuggie Bain, it makes sense that this isn’t a straightforward romance. It deals with difficult themes but that’s reflective of what life was like living in Glasgow then. Queer narratives are incredibly important, there’s a lot to take from the novel – don’t be put off by this very limited review.
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i tried to say in the review but in case it wasn’t clear, i fully agree that this book is worth reading for some people. It was just personal preference for me that I didn’t enjoy it! i’m glad you did!!