Title: The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins (Goodreads)
Author: Irvine Welsh
Narrator: Lorelei King, Penelope Rawlins
Published: Jonathan Cape, 2014
My Copy: Audiobook
Buy: Amazon, Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)
Irvine Welsh has always been an author that I have wanted to read, but he always seemed to sit on the backburner. I have Trainspotting on my bookshelf and I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually. His new novel The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins seemed like just the right amount of filth and bizarreness for me at the time. The novel kicks off questioning American’s obsession with numbers, from statistics, ratings, western culture seems to measure everything with numbers. From crime rates, percentages to economical values to shoe and breast sizes; everything is about numbers. This sets up the protagonist, personal trainer Lucy Brennan, who obsessively records everything, from her calories, her exercise and every aspect of her life, as well as those she trains.
Set in the image obsessed Miami, The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins tells the story of Lucy who heroically disarms a gunman who was chasing down two homeless men. This was witnessed and recorded by the sole eyewitness, Lena Sorensen. Lucy’s act of heroism transforms her into an insta-celeb with national exposure, giving her the break she has been looking for. Lena becomes obsessed with Lucy and signs up as one of her clients. The two find themselves getting closer, too close for comfort.
I officially believe that all personal trainers are sadists; however Lucy takes this to a whole new level. She goes from strict personal trainer to scary crazy in the efforts to get Lena into shape. Reading this novel reminds me never to get a trainer; I don’t think I can handle the efforts one might go to, to get me into shape. I won’t go into details; the whole concept of fitness and eating healthy within this novel is worth exploring without any spoilers.
In an interesting twist, it turns out that the two frightened men Lucy saves from the angry gunman turned out to be paedophiles. The media focus quickly shifts from heroine to whether she should have stopped a victim of sex abuse from getting his revenge. Would she have acted differently if she knew the reason? It is no longer a story about bravery and heroics but one of pain and vengeance.
I read this novel as a caper that quickly spiralled out of control. Irvine Welsh was able to produce very unique acerbic characters, all vastly different from each other, with their own little quirks and flaws. Lucy a militant personal trainer, we get to watch her stardom rise and fall and Lena an avant-garde sculptor who is a shy talent with a dark side that comes through mainly in her art.
I get the impression that Welsh likes to explore the darker side of humanity. While I tend to enjoy transgressive fiction I was finding some issues within this novel that I will try to explain. Irvine Welsh doesn’t hold back; Lucy Brennan is a hard hitting, foul-mouthed, aggressive woman; an anti-hero that I can’t help wondering if she is realistic. She claims to be a feminist but comes across almost like a misogynist, rather than just an angry bitch. I increasingly began to see her less as a female protagonist and more as Welsh’s fantasy of the ideal woman. His own masculinity seems to come through in this character and she comes across as a slutty bi-sexual that has the libido and personality of a teenage boy. That is not to say that there aren’t women like that out in the world; for me, her personality never rung true.
I was never sure how to take Lucy; she started off as a strong willed, fitness freak with no social filter and a mouth and sex drive that is unmatched. These people obviously do exist in the world and I tried to take her seriously but as the novel went on it become harder and harder to suspend my disbelief. She became less of a character in the novel and more the voice that satirizes Irvine Welsh’s own soapbox views.
Lean Sorensen is far more interesting; she comes across as timid but talented artist but she doesn’t see that. She views herself the same way the world does, as just a pathetic overweight woman. Whether it is the manipulative ex-boyfriend, the passive aggressive parents or the fake friends of the art world, she is depicted as a broken woman trying to get her life together. I enjoyed the darkness that came through under the perky and cheerful facade that she tries to put on; it really rounded out the character. She kept my interest throughout the novel.
The title The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins is an interesting topic as it refers to a subplot about the media frenzy around two conjoined teens, Annabel and Amy. Annabel is considering losing her virginity to her boyfriend but Amy is not too keen on this idea. A conversation about the twins and their sex lives is a reoccurring conversation/argument between Lucy and Lena. They have differing views about sex and the conjoined twins and often the focus of their personality clash.
I have to mention the morning pages program that mentioned throughout this novel. It is a program where you must write three pages in a stream of consciousness format every morning. The idea of this program is to help identify issues that need extra attention while trying to achieve their goal, in this example weight loss. Morning pages interested me because it was the concept that inspired 750words.com a site I’ve been using to develop a good writing habit.
In the pursuit for perfection, things get dark and twisted; The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins explores this very topic. A novel of depravity, revenge, sex and crime, Welsh gives the reader plenty to think about and if you can suspend your disbelief when it comes to Lucy, this book really is extremely rewarding. Be warned there is a lot of swearing and sex, not for the sweet and innocent. The sex has a voyeuristic approach to it, not erotic at all and often disturbing. In the end, this novel was a rewarding endeavour into transgressive fiction but I need something sweet to read next.