"A room without books is like a body without a soul." - Marcus Tullius Cicero

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Trainspotting is similar to Filth in the way that it is bleak, gritty and depressing - but at the same time has a throbbing vein of dark comedy running through it. It follows Mark Renton and his group of friends, most of whom are heroin addicts - Sickboy, Begbie (not a junky, but a terrifying and violent psychopath), Tommy and Spud - amongst several other acquaintances. 

I found Trainspotting to be less entertaining than Filth on the whole, but it was a novel which affected me deeply and left me thinking about it for days after I’d finished it. The story of one character – Tommy – is devastating and utterly heart-breaking; to my surprise Trainspotting is quite a sad book once you strip back the layers of dirtiness and black humour. It is preoccupied with the horrifying consequences of drug abuse, covering a range of conventional outcomes such as the burden to one’s family to more severe problems such as limb amputation, the contraction of HIV, and even death. 

Trainspotting is a difficult read at times for numerous reasons. Rather than having a coherent, straight-forward narrative, it is composed like a collection of short stories with overlapping characters and which are all connected by the 80’s heroin culture in Scotland. It is written in Welsh’s trademark Scottish dialect, though the language seemed to me to be ‘more Scottish’ than it was in Filth, however there is some reprieve in the form of several third person perspective chapters; the language that Welsh adopts in his novels should not put a reader off – it is innovative and does not detract from the books but rather renders his novels more immersive. Finally, there are loads of characters: I spent a long time at the beginning trying to figure out who was who and who was doing what because most of the numerous characters have several nicknames. The chapters rotate between characters, which adds to this confusion, but it also ensures that we get a comprehensive view of the junky lifestyle. I found the characters difficult to connect with, but they are for the most part well drawn and interesting to follow. 

Irvine Welsh has thoroughly impressed me a second time round; Trainspotting is an entertaining and funny yet emotionally raw, affecting and brutal novel that I will never forget.

Rating: 8/10

My other Irvine Welsh reviews:

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