“Trainspotting” by Irvine Welsh

TrainspottingWikipedia says that this is the author’s first novel, first published in 1993. Its form is described as a collection of short stories, which revolve around various heroin users in Edinburgh. The novel has achieved a cult status, aided by the global success of Danny Boyle’s  film adaptation.






We read this in 2016 ready for our meeting at the beginning of February. The book had been put forward by one of our members as a “modern classic”. It’s fair to say that this choice succeeded in splitting our readers…

Six people attended the meeting, although one person hadn’t read the book and so didn’t give a score.  More than half of our readers thought it the book was good or really great. Others didn’t care for it or had felt sure that they didn’t even want to read it – the main reason for this being the foul language with which the book is glutted.

It was quite a difficult book in many ways. Whilst those who liked the book felt the language was necessary and authentic, strong Scottish dialect and slang slowed our reading speed. The structure of the novel is disjointed: rather than following a traditional story line, the tale is told through some loosely linked short stories, recounted by different characters. We noted that each had a subtly different voice but some of us found it easier than others to tell apart the individual story-tellers. The story itself is made more difficult by its subject matter, which includes events that are both tragic and disturbing. Despite all this, those of us that liked the book felt that there was enough humour running through the book (albeit a very dark black humour) to save it – the novel might have been unbearable without such humour.

The arguments against are perhaps best summed up by emails from two of our members who didn’t make it to the meeting. Helen said:

I absolutely hated the book and the bad language was just too much. I gave up 2/3 through. I think that allows me to offer a score, so 1/10. If that is a future classic heaven help our children.

Hilary added:

I read very little, unless ‘flicking through’ and reading at random counts! I know drug misuse can be most desperate, but I don’t want to read all of this and my admiration for anyone who has put the effort in. I have seen the film and that was quite enough.

Overall then, an interesting and absorbing read for those who enjoyed it, not so much (or at all) for others. Scores ranged from 1 to 9, giving an average score of 6.7 from 6 readers.

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