Book Review: Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

You might need the tissues for this one.

Blurb

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.

Review

I haven’t read Shuggie Bain yet so I went into Young Mungo completely oblivious as to what Douglas Stewart can do.

Young Mungo is a very raw story. While there are moments of happiness, do be prepared for hardship, violence, and the crushing of sensitive souls. However, the author doesn’t write any scene for shock value. The sad, true story is that Mungo’s like was – and still is – the case for many people. While there are some elements that make it clear this book was written based on the 90s, if you take some minor elements out, the plot of this book could very well be happening now. Just look at Norway last week (June 2022). Violence against members of the LGBTQ+ community is still very much happening.

What I loved about Young Mungo was that it’s wasn’t a thrashing of the working class. Yes, it’s showed that being born into a working class life can be a factor pushing people toward a less than savoury lifestyle, it’s also shows that it doesn’t have to be. It also shows that working class people are often the salt of the earth, the people who would give you their last cup of milk to help out.

Young Mungo is a triggering story so please do check if it is for you before reading. If you do go ahead and read it, read it openly. There are scenes which are uncomfortable. Don’t skim over them. Embrace the despair as well as the feelings of hope. Only then can books such as this work as a catalyst for change.

You can pick up a copy of Young Mungo here.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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