Wednesday, 20 June 2012

“Skagboys” by Irvine Welsh


I have to come clean, I am an Irvine Welsh fan.  I have read everything he’s had published and loved almost all of it.  His debut novel “Trainspotting” changed my life and everytime I read his work it makes me want to be a writer.

If you have read Irvine Welsh you might want to skip this paragraph but if you are unfamiliar with his work then here’s a few brief outlines.  Welsh is an ex junkie from Edinburgh and a lot of his work deals with things he himself has lived through.  You sense there are elements of the man himself in certain characters.  IW has created a world and many of his characters cross from one story to another if only in cameo.  The first thing you will notice about his language, dialogue in particular is written in a local dialect.  The first time reader will have to hear the words/ accent in their own mind, to help understand it on the page.  Once you become familiar it becomes second nature.  This style of writing dialogue is brilliant as the regular reader will recognise individual characters, without introduction, from the way they speak.  This adds so much depth to the character and really helps the reader to understand them.

“Skagboys” is a prequel to “Trainspotting” and basically charts the fall from society of the characters we have grown to love/loathe in previous novels.  To quote from the book’s cover;
“Skagboys charts their journey from likely lads to young men addicted to heroin which has flooded their disintegrating community……this is an exhilarating and moving book, full of the scabrous humour, salty vernacular and appalling behaviour that has made Irvine Welsh a household name.”

I was a little sceptical when I began reading, knowing these characters futures means I know there will be grim tales to follow and this is most certainly the case!  In places it is very dark with vile characters behaving in despicable ways and loveable characters coming apart at the seams.  It’s sad but lightened at all times by the humour throughout.  At times I literally laughed out loud, giggling in a caravan on a foreign holiday, trying desperately not to wake the kids.  By the end the characters have become those we know from “ Trainspotting” and “Porno”.  The ending is comical chaos but falls short of the euphoria of other novels but we knew that had to be the case.

Welsh has been accused of “glamorising heroin addiction”  but anyone who has read the vivid descriptions of a skag boy’s existence will be put off for life.  For this and his brilliant use of dialogue he should be on the school’s curriculum.

Skagboys is a great book, Irvine Welsh is in top form and it takes its place alongside the others in this series.  Hopefully one day Renton, Spud, Begbie & Sick boy will ride again for another scam.

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