Title: Young Mungo
Author: Douglas Stuart
Publication Date: 14th April 2022
Born under different stars, Protestant Mungo and Catholic James live in a hyper-masculine world. They are caught between two of Glasgow’s housing estates where young working-class men divide themselves along sectarian lines, and fight territorial battles for the sake of reputation. 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 doocot that James has built for his prize racing pigeons. As they begin to fall in love, they dream of escaping the grey city, and Mungo must work 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 behind whose drunken banter lie murky pasts, he needs 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.
Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism, Douglas Stuart’s Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the meaning of masculinity, the push and pull of family, the violence faced by so many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much.
I haven’t read Shuggie Bain yet, although it is on my list, however I have heard great things about it and if it’s anything like as moving and powerful as Young Mungo then I’m missing out. Young Mungo is about so many things, like masculinity, sexuality, coming of age, family, violence, hardship and love. Stuart is a phenomenally good writer, somehow able to convey visceral brutality and delicate tenderness all in one breath. Mungo is a brilliantly crafted character whose life I was completely engaged with and the setting of working class Glasgow in the 90s feels unbearably authentic and unflinching in its stark viciousness. The futility of the conflict and shocking violence that seems to overwhelm so many of the characters is heartbreakingly genuine. Yet there is also a sensitivity and sense of heart that seeps from the pages and keeps the bleakness at bay, even if just for a little while. Young Mungo beautifully demonstrates how much damage can be wrought by hate and how much joy can be found in the simplicity of genuine love. Highly recommended.
I received an e-copy of the book through Netgalley. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.
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