First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.

Synopsis:

Douglas Stuart’s first novel, Shuggie Bain, winner of the 2020 Booker Prize, is one of the most successful literary debuts of the century so far. Published or forthcoming in forty territories, it has sold more than one million copies worldwide. Now Stuart returns with Young Mungo, his extraordinary second novel. Both a page-turner and literary tour de force, it is a vivid portrayal of working-class life and a deeply moving and highly suspenseful story of the dangerous first love of two young men.

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 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 murk pasts, he will need to summon all his inner strength and courage to try to get back to a lace of safety, 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.


It’s Christmas weekend! To the Christian world, Merry Christmas! Also Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish brothers! To the rest of the world, happy holidays! Speaking of the holiday, the major thoroughfares of Manila will be clogged with cars and buses as everyone rushes to go home for the holidays. I wasn’t originally planning to but I will be one of those who will be crowding bus stations tonight. I am just hoping I get to be there on time. Anyway, today is the second to the last Friday of the year. Whoa. In less than ten days, we will be welcoming a new year! I can’t believe 2022 is nearly done. It was memorable as the world is slowly healing and recovering after nearly two years of lockdowns and quarantines. Sure, the virus remains a threat but we are now in a better place than we were during the 2020 holiday season.

I also hope and fervently pray that 2023 will be a year of blessings, healing, and great health. But before we can wave goodbye to 2022, I hope that the rest of 2022 will be filled with nothing but blessings and good news. I hope that everyone’s prayers will be or have been answered. I hope that everything you have worked hard for during the past year gets repaid. More importantly, I hope that you are all doing well, in your body, mind, and spirit. As it is also the end of the week, I hope you were able to finish everything you started this week. I hope you ended the week on a high note. To those, who like me, are traveling tonight, I pray that you reach your destination safely. I hope we can all spend the holiday season warm and in the company of the people we love.

To cap the week, I am posting a new First Impression Friday update, a weekly tradition that has greatly helped me in appreciating my current reads. I am currently reading Douglas Stuart’s Young Mungo, the Scottish writer’s sophomore novel. It will also be my 101st read. I recently completed Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, my 100th read for the year, marking the first time that I breached the three-digit mark in a year. The hefty novel was also the last piece in my 2022 Top 22 Reading List and my 2022 Beat the Backlist. Talk about hitting three birds with one stone. I am glad the book lived up to my expectations; after all, it was widely recognized and is even listed as one of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.

But back to Young Mungo. I think it was in late 2021 that I learned about Stuart’s second novel. His debut novel, of course, is the Booker Prize-winning Shuggie Bain. Although I was a little disappointed with Shuggie Bain, I was looking forward to reading Young Mungo. Thankfully, I was able to obtain a copy of the book midway through the year but it had to wait because my focus shifted to books on my reading challenges. But with my most crucial reading challenges done, I am letting myself slow down a bit. But not exactly. It was also my goal to read at least 15 new books this year and Young Mungo is going to be my 14th new book. The goal is so near. This reminds me, Young Mungo is also my 989th novel. Wow. I am just a couple of books before my 1,000th novel.

I am quite loquacious. HAHA. When I started reading Young Mungo, I kind of expected that Stuart will remain true to his roots, that he will be capitalizing on the strengths of Shuggie Bain. Sure enough, I found myself again in Glasgow, Stuart’s birthplace. He transported the readers to the same impoverished environment that formed the vivid backdrop to his debut novel. The time frame was also the early 1990s and the titular Mungo Hamilton was fifteen when we first meet him. He has two older siblings, Hamish and Jodie. The three siblings were raised by their mother, referred to as Mo-Maw, and refused to be called any other endearing term, i.e. mom, mother, ma. Jodie, the only daughter, was forced to take on the role of a parent and caretaker as Hamish already left their family home while their mother was an alcoholic.

While his older siblings resented their mother, Mungo was nothing but gentle with her. His older siblings had strong personalities, with Hamish even being the leader of a teenage gang. Unlike them, Mungo was more awkward and more sensitive. He was the odd one out and was an anomaly amidst the rough and tough life of the Glaswegian neighborhood. Again, he echoed the same characteristics as Shuggie Bain. But while Shuggie Bain came across as a son’s homage to his mother, Young Mungo painted the portrait of a teenager trying to navigate the shaky waters of adolescence. There were new experiences waiting, such as romance, the exploration of sexuality, and, if I am not mistaken, the development of a dream beyond the poverty he was used to. At least I expected this subject to be present as well in Young Mungo

I have just a little under a hundred pages to finish before I can call it a mission success. I must say, I am more impressed with Young Mungo than I was with Shuggie Bain even though they shared several parallels. What came across was Stuart’s stronger prose. At the same points where his debut novel felt weak, his sophomore novel was stronger. I can only surmise he became more confident in his writing and it showed. The flow was natural. The execution was cleaner. I can’t wait to see how Mungo’s story develops. How about you fellow reader? What book or books are you taking with you for the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy them. Again, happy holidays everyone!