The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh

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The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh

Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Stephen Leach
Reviewed by Stephen Leach
Summary: A punchy story about the interaction between an aggressive personal trainer and an overweight depressive woman slowly darkens into a psychological thriller. Absorbing read that will stick in the mind afterwards.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 468 Date: April 2015
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780099535560

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“Numbers are the great American obsession” opines Lucy Brennan, the protagonist of The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins, and in her case at least that’s definitely true. Whether it’s thinking about an argument with her boyfriend Miles (6”1, 210 lbs), noting the the stats of “sneaky, squeaky” fellow personal trainer Mona (5”9, blond, 36-34-36) or noting down how many calories her lunch of steamed broccoli and spinach with a peanut-butter-and-banana protein shake will set her back (460 cal). As a personal trainer obsessed with keeping in shape, Lucy never stops thinking about calories and body crunches. There’s several amusing passages where she rants about the clients she has to deal with, particularly one woman who will obviously never lose any weight and simply wants validation for making the effort to do so in the first place. Having just joined a gym myself, I felt like the perfect person for this novel.

In fact, the idea of the effort it costs to really change yourself is a recurring theme brought up in this book. It’s driven home again and again that simply doing half an hour on the treadmill three times a week isn’t enough: you have to really want to change, to want to make the effort to go running and put down the chocolate biscuits, and Lucy rails against all the ‘fakers’ and time-wasters she has to deal with on a daily basis, none of whom show any real inclination to get fitter.

The thing about Lucy is that she’s such an unlikeable narrator – there’s precious little to like about her, which is fair enough, and ultimately she’s just not that interesting, either. But this is part of what helps make the book so compulsively readable; it’s the awfulness of her character that makes you keep reading, like one of those trashy sob-story magazines, and just like a trainwreck celebrity, you want to see what happens to her next, too.

As the novel continues, Welsh introduces a second narrator in the form of Lena Sorensen, an overweight depressive who drifts into Lucy’s life one day and becomes one of her clients. At first it seems that Lena will be the one causing problems for Lucy, but the story takes a couple of twists along the way. My opinion on her shifted several times over the course of the novel, and by the end I felt like there had almost been a merging between the two characters. Unlike Lucy, her backstory is threaded cleverly into her character and it’s so difficult not to instantly be on her side. Lena’s depression combined with Lucy’s full-on abuse of her will resonate with anyone who has ever said they don’t have the time or energy to exercise.

There are a few things that hampered my enjoyment of this novel, though. Not being American, I couldn’t say how realistic the language used was, but the constant usage of terms such as “mofo’s”, “hardass” and “beyotch” felt extremely jarring to me. Do people actually use those words on an everyday basis? And do Americans really end every sentence with an exclamation mark? Another thing that also made it quite hard to read was the lack of punctuation marks. Rather than speech being displayed “like this”, it is instead written –like this. This tripped me up a couple of times, and I’m not sure what the intended effect was.

This is the first novel by Irvine Welsh I’ve ever read, and I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t expecting the story to go where it did, and I devoured it in two days flat (possibly a poor word choice there). Definitely read this one. It may end up surprising you.

For further reading, if, like me, you’re not familiar with Irvine Welsh, I’m about to start reading Crime, which also happens to be set in Miami Beach. This book made me start to think more about exercise and what I eat, so try Eating Myself by Candida Crewe if you’re interested in reading more into obesity and food-related health issues.

Buy The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh at Amazon.com.


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