Classics · Drama · Fiction

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

What is it about?

Trainspotting centres around a group of four friends (the philosophical Renton, the psychotic Begbie, the kind but stupid Spud, and the charming Sick Boy) and the people who surround them, the vast majority of these people being heroin addicts. Set in Edinburgh during the 1980s, we see the group go through all sorts of things in their struggle for sobriety, for making the most out of life, or for trying to obtain that next hit. Recurring themes in the novel include politics, sex, friendship, morality and HIV.

Is it any good?

The main thing that sets this cult classic apart from most ‘ordinary’ novels is that it, for the most part, is written phonetically in an Edinburgh accent. Whilst this takes a little bit of getting used to, it’s actually a really good way of keeping the reader engaged and translating it becomes rather fun. Each character in the novel has their own distinctive voice and personality; however, there are so many characters that it becomes hard to keep track of them all and how they all link up – it is even harder still for the reader to bring themselves to care about the entire cast. The non-linear plot gets a bit baffling at times, making it feel like a collection of fast-paced short stories rather than a novel, but if you just accept this and let it carry you, it’s actually a really enjoyable read. Whilst it feels somewhat dated now in that I, as a nineteen-year-old in 2016, did not get a lot of the pop culture references, I think that a lot of the points it makes are still relevant today. For example, I would regard this book as a feminist text; this can be seen in the way Renton often talks about women, in the chapter where Davie takes a horrific sort of revenge on his girlfriend’s rapist, in the scene where Ali and Kelly take on a group of catcallers, in Kelly’s experiences working behind a bar with drunken men, to name but a few examples. If you can stomach the incessant swearing and the tumultuous ride, then Trainspotting is definitely something worth reading.

Rating: 8/10

How long did it take to read: five days

For fans of: gross out comedy, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride, The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling, gritty realism, listening to people rambling

This books tastes like: cold McDonald’s fries


2 thoughts on “Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

  1. I tried reading this a few years ago but the language was too difficult for me. I really like your review, though, so now I kinda feel like giving it another shot 🙂


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