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Skagboys: A review

September 25, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

SkagboysSkagboys by Irvine Welsh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a predecessor to Trainspotting, set in mid-80s Edinburgh and other points of interest. The boys are in their early 20s, experiencing heroin, Margaret Thatcher’s regime of unemployment and poverty, and bad attitudes overall.

My take on each character:

Mark Renton: pretty misunderstood, but at the same time cops a nihilistic attitude that keeps him from experiencing true happiness as a regular guy.

Francis Begbie: seemed to have some redeeming qualities that were absent in Trainspotting and Porno. It’s like he hadn’t gone full psycho yet in Skagboys, but that will come in time.

Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson: He’s already into dealing, pimping, stealing, and screwing people over at this point. He doesn’t care who gets hurt the way in his quest for the good life. He’s pretty scummy overall, in this blogger’s opinion.

Danny “Spud” Murphy: Poor guy, nothing goes right for him, not even a chance to sleep with a well known singer (with hilarious results).

Matthew “Matty” Connell: Real dirtbag. I can’t stand the guy at all, he’s a character with no chance of redemption.

Tommy Lawrence: has his ups and downs, but overall isn’t doing too bad compared to the others

I loved this book overall. Welsh returns to his old stomping grounds with glorious results. Some advice: If you read this, pay very close attention to the details in early chapters. You’ll have to revisit them later in surprising ways.

If you hadn’t heard of the book, here’s a short synopsis straight from Irvine Welsh’s site:

Mark Renton has it all: he’s good-looking, young, with a pretty girlfriend and a place at university. But there’s no room for him in the 1980s. Thatcher’s government is destroying working-class communities across Britain, and the post-war certainties of full employment, educational opportunity and a welfare state are gone. When his family starts to fracture, Mark’s life swings out of control and he succumbs to the defeatism which has taken hold in Edinburgh’s grimmer areas. The way out is heroin.

It’s no better for his friends. Spud Murphy is paid off from his job, Tommy Lawrence feels himself being sucked into a life of petty crime and violence – the worlds of the thieving Matty Connell and psychotic Franco Begbie. Only Sick Boy, the supreme manipulator of the opposite sex, seems to ride the current, scamming and hustling his way through it all.

Skagboys charts their journey from likely lads to young men addicted to the heroin which has flooded their disintegrating community. This is the 1980s: a time of drugs, poverty, AIDS, violence, political strife and hatred – but a lot of laughs, and maybe just a little love; a decade which changed Britain for ever. The prequel to the world-renowned Trainspotting, 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 highly suggest reading the Leith trilogy in order, timewise:

  1. Skagboys
  2. Trainspotting
  3. Porno (yes, it’s an actual book)

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