Monday, 19 January 2015

Book Review: Irvine Welsh - The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins


Irvine Welsh is back, continuing his good run of form on the back of the brilliant Skagboys: this time with his “lesbian-noire” thriller in The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins. As always, Welsh employs more mind bending prose; this time showing his feminine side, presenting Lucy Brennan as his main character; the first leading female protagonist he’s rendered.

Brennan is very much in the same vein as Filth’s Bruce Robertson; conniving, narcissistic and just plain shocking on most levels of humanity. Like Robertson, Brennan’s past is haunting, however I won’t reveal too much for those yet to delve into this gem.
The fact …Siamese Twins is set in Miami sometimes hinders Brennan’s menace, in my opinion. Yes, her evilness is obvious throughout, however cultural differences between Welsh’s native Scotland and his now adopted America stifle Brennan’s rhetoric from time to time. When I say rhetoric, I mean language and more specifically, the word “cunt.” So pervasively used within Welsh’s Scottish characters (look no further than Bruce Robertson and the revered ‘Juice’ Terry Lawson), it’s a word most American’s cringe at and is seldom used within the American culture. I guess it adds a certain reality to ...Siamese Twins.

The story flourishes with unexpected turn of the tides, with the transcendent introduction of Lena Sorensen as the secondary or ‘other’ protagonist.
Many may see Brennan as Welsh’s greatest accomplishment with …Siamese Twins, but Sorensen’s character unravels quite astonishingly throughout. Welsh demonstrates a tone very reminiscent of the modern American wordsmith. In particularly, the passages where Sorensen finds her voice in revealing her past. He cashes in guttural punk satire for eloquence reminiscent of Jonathan Franzen. Welsh has always had the proficiencies to conjure dark narrative, but the Franzen-esque style is extremely welcoming and a pleasant surprise. It’s undoubtedly another string to his bow.

It’s interesting to see where Irvine goes next. A sequel to the venerable Glue is being mooted amongst Welsh aficionados; however I think he could reap more reward from Lena Sorensen. He’s no doubt got it stored away in his locker. The best usually do and Welsh is no doubt up there with the best of them.

By Simon K.