Irvine Welsh - The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins (4 stars)

Female narrators dazzle in hugely entertaining read that throws some savage punches at modern America

Irvine Welsh - The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins

(Jonathan Cape)

For his ninth novel, Irvine Welsh has swapped grey and gritty Scotland for blue Floridian skies, but not even the Miami sunshine can diminish his darkly twisted view of the world. The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins tells the story of personal trainer Lucy Brennan and artist Lena Sorensen. They meet after Lena’s mobile phone footage of Lucy disarming a gunman in pursuit of two homeless men turns the fitness fanatic into an overnight media star, someone to ‘shake America out of its complacency’. This grand scenario sets up what is essentially an examination of an age where privacy is nearly impossible, and image is everything.

Lucy is soon hired by the obese and obsessive Lena, leading to vast amounts of exercise, lies, food and betrayal. The intricate plot develops through a split narrative dominated by the foul-mouthed and increasingly psychopathic Lucy, whose voice is used to throw some savage punches at modern America, though the Chicago-based Welsh’s underlying love of his adopted homeland is apparent.

Many of the hallmarks that have established Welsh as one of Scotland’s literary heroes are present, from razor-sharp prose to experimentations with form, an outrageous level of expletives and sado-masochistic sex scenes. The superficial Miami setting is a perfect part of the world for Lucy and Lena’s shared psychosis to thrive, which it does with murderous effect. Female narrators authored by men can often fall into clichéd traps but after a somewhat sluggish start, both Lucy and Lena dazzle in this hugely entertaining read.

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