As an avid reader with ambitions to one day become a broke writer, you tend look at stories differently. Rather like a butcher eating a steak. The pleasure isn’t only in the meal itself, but the cut and the consistency of the meat. You don’t just appreciate the story, but also the construction, the character development, and the sleight of hand an author might use to explore themes.
While a darling of transgressive fiction since his debut novel Trainspotting, with The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins Irvine Welsh once again proves himself much more than a one trick pony. Even with his trademark quirks and acerbic characters he proves an incredible craftsman, his storytelling skills threatening to steal the show. He could write anything he wished and be a success, it’s just that he likes his meat a little on the raw side.
Welsh’s characters, despite their eccentricities, are uneasily authentic and his scattered use of epistolary storytelling help bring context to the anger and confusion behind their motives.
It’s ironic to use an analogy about eating red meat to describe my feelings on the book. Protagonist (or perhaps antagonist) Lucy Brennan is a militant physical trainer and wouldn’t find the comparison particularly palatable. She treats her body like a temple, and thinks very little of others who don’t do the same. On further consideration, she doesn’t think all that much of anyone.
Her life changes forever when one night she uses her physical prowess to disarm an armed gunman on the freeway. Filmed by a bystander, she finds herself thrust into the national spotlight, leading to opportunities in the form of typically ridiculous fitness/reality shows (so ridiculous they sound perfectly plausible) and she looks set for the spotlight until a brutal truth is discovered about the gunman’s motives that night.
As Lucy’s star begins to rise and fall, she acquires an apostle, the young artist Lena Sorenson, a woman who has always struggled with her weight, who captured the events on the freeway on her camera phone. While the world sees a shy talent, Lucy only sees a heart attack waiting to happen. The problem is that Lena, despite her own gifts, sees the same thing.
Lena enlists Lucy’s help in getting her life back on track, but she soon discovers that Lucy’s outlooks on life are far less healthy than the program she prescribes, and events begin to spiral out of control in the pursuit of perfection.
The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins owes its name to a news story that buzzes away in the background of the novel, seemingly taking the attention of the entire world: should conjoined teens Annabel and Amy risk an operation to separate so Annabel can sleep with her boyfriend? The subplot typifies Welsh’s world, one that takes an uneasy pleasure in sticking their toes in the lives of others.
If you’re a fan of Irvine Welsh, The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins won’t disappoint. After all, there is only one Welsh. But if you’re a newbie, this is the perfect place to start, a much more mature writer awaits you nowadays. Welsh no longer wishes to construct his own strange world to tell a story. The one we all share is far more peculiar.
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
Follow Andrew: Twitter