Book review ‘Young Mungo’

  • Author: Douglas Stuart
  • Publisher: Picador (PacMacmillan) (in Belgium & Holland: Nieuw Amsterdam)
  • Publishing year: 2022
  • Number of pages: 392
  • ISBN: 978-1529068771
  • My rating: 5/5


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’m in awe of Stuart’s writing… it hurts, it’s lovely, its painful but at the same time so tender. I had a lot of fears when starting this novel, as the premise sounded similar to its predecessor (Shuggie Bain): a fatherless kid with a brother and a sister and an alcoholic mother in working class Glasgow… huge difference was the era: we went from the eighties to the nineties…

And then I started reading the book. It could not have been more different from Shuggie…

I thought when I read Shuggie: this can’t get better! But Mungo is just so much more… I loved the story, even the hard parts (and yes, there are many of those) because this i for me a modern take on Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet. Two boys, one catholic and one protestant, fall in love but their love is challenged by both family’s.

I will not spoil the story but I do want to utter a trigger warning because this is not only a love story. It’s also a story about abuse, about alcoholism and paedophilia… so be warned when reading this novel!

Let me end my short review with expressing my love for the books and the writing of Douglas Stuart. He knows how to grab my heart, squeeze it and then making it grow bigger… I am very much looking forward to his next book!

Adding this little thought: it was put to my attention by someone on instagram (who had also recommended me to read Stuart’s novels) that Young Mungo’s ending is quite ambiguous… knowing that now leaves me wondering and I haven’t stopped thinking of it ever since… it only made me love the book even more now! 🥰

And I want to express my thanks for the people that joined me in July for the read along I hosted for this novel! You guys rock! 💪

Alternate cover

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