The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins: Review

Let me begin by saying that Irvine Welsh is my favourite writer of the last 25 years. I was blown away by Trainspotting, The Acid House, Ecstasy, Glue and Filth. I didn’t particularly enjoy Marabou Stork Nightmares but I could appreciate its ambition and power…it haunts me still. I loved Porno, but after that he started to seem a tad jaded. If You Enjoyed School You’ll Love Work was trying too hard. The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs was a confused mess. And Crime left me cold (with too much riding on a late-revealed traumatic childhood to explain a dysfunctional adult – ground he’d already covered so brilliantly with Bruce Robertson in Filth.
There was a brief return to form with Skag Boys – Begbie in particular was breathtaking in that reprise – so I looked forward to Irvine’s next effort confident that he’d rediscovered his edge.
Alas, he has not. The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins is an almost colour-by-numbers attempt to counterpoint the evolving relationship of two women (one fit, one fat) with the developing media fascination with a pair of conjoined twins who want different things in their lives.
It was pretty hard for me to get into the story – mainly because I didn’t like (or believe) the main character – Lucy. She seemed to have the same voice as the increasingly coke-psychotic Sick Boy from the second half of Porno, and the only reason I knew she was a woman was because she kept saying so (despite her unrelenting misogyny).
Neither did I believe the other main character (Lena) – especially her true sexual orientation which is conveniently revealed towards the end. I especially did not believe the major turning point that happens about halfway through. Stranger things have happened, of course, but there needed to be at least some vague foreshadowing that such was possible to make it believable when it came. Too much in one go did not make sense.
There was an interesting idea underpinning the plot but the whole thing read like a first draft. The story needed a lot more structural editing to pull it into shape. Most disappointing was the absence of the usual Welsh dark humour. The sex scenes also read like a middle aged man’s lesbotic fantasy rather than smacking of any authenticity. And TWO main characters with dysfunctional lives attributable to past trauma is just getting lazy. Worst of all, I guessed every detail about the ending long before it happened. A further couple of drafts might have enabled him to conceal the ‘twists’ a little better – or even come up with some better twists to trump the reader’s expectation.
The question must be asked: has Irvine Welsh become the sort of writer he might most have despised when still scribbling in obscurity? Is he now a complaisant ex-virtuoso basking in the ebbing shadows of former glory like Meatloaf at the MCG? (Google it.) I reckon the talent is still there, he just needs to work harder than ever to refine his draft plots into something worthy of the Irvine Welsh brand.
Mibbe eh just needs back oan the skag? Ah widnae mind a sequel tae Porno. Aye right, Irvine?

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