Sunday, 11 May 2014

Book #22

The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh

When Lucy Brennan, a Miami Beach personal-fitness trainer, disarms a gunman chasing two frightened homeless men, the police and the breaking-news cameras are not far behind and, within hours, Lucy is a media hero. The solitary eye-witness is the depressed and overweight Lena Sorensen, who becomes obsessed with Lucy and signs up as her client - though she seems more interested in the trainer's body than her own. When the two women find themselves more closely aligned, and can't stop thinking about the sex lives of Siamese twins, the real problems start.

My favourite thing about Welsh's writing is that every single one of his characters are fundamentally flawed. In fact, most of them are close to monstrous, and he explores their dispositions to a wonderful degree. Seeing these psychopaths dissected on paper is absolutely delectable, and it's these scrutinisations of incomprehensible psyches that attracts me to Welsh time and time again.

I wasn't disappointed in Lucy and Lena. They each had their necessary depravities, and the plot moved itself along well as we learned where these came from for each of the girls. Welsh uses different narrative styles to depict whose story is being told at a certain time, and this is something I particularly enjoy in his novels.

The story is typical Welsh - heavily adult, shocking, and macabre. Many dislike his penchant for the grotesque, however it's another thing I love him for. The novel doesn't shock for the sake of it, but each scene is there for a purpose, whether to move the plot along, or to convey a message.

Welsh uses his characters and plot to challenge our attitudes towards everything from the media, sex, body image, and most of all, celebrity culture. He forces us to think outside of the box about the controlled media bubble we live in, along with all of our other modern obsessions; it feels confrontational and passionate, as our pre-conceived ideas are blasted out of the water.

The Siamese twins aspect comes into play with the heavily broadcast story of two conjoined girls from Arkansas. Their tale seems so irrelevant at the beginning of the novel, playing on televisions in the background, or printed in glanced at magazines, but this quickly becomes symbolic of Lucy and Lena's developing relationship, and their own similarities and contrasts. The symbolism of this built at the same pace as developments in the plot, which worked really well in allowing the two to interweave.

This is the first novel of Welsh's that doesn't involve his native Scotland, or a Scottish character, in any way. It's hard to blame him when he's been living in America for so long, however the fact that the book is heavily satirising American obesity, reality TV, food and fitness, seems quite poignant to me. 

Abhorrent, thought-provoking, and with absolutely fascinating characters, Welsh impresses me yet again. Roll on the next one!

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