The Sex Lives Of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh
Prepare yourselves for the ride of a lifetime as the author of Trainspotting and The Blade Artist moves to Miami to wreak havoc among the beautiful people to be found parading their shallow wares in that part of the USA. This is one of the most amusing books that you will read in many a day unless, that is, you’re overweight. If you are carrying too much extra poundage, then you may find The Sex Lives Of Siamese Twins a nightmare.
Lucy Brennan is a Bostonian transplanted to Miami Beach. Her father is a retired cop turned successful novelist. Her mother is a struggling real estate agent. They’re divorced and don’t really like one another very much. Lucy is a fitness instructor increasingly frustrated with the obese clients that she attracts. She has little finesse and is fairly abrupt, but manages to feign concern for the over-weight hopefuls who pay her bills.
Life takes a strange turn when Lucy intervenes to prevent a gunman from killing two fleeing men on a city street. She disarms the shooter before giving him a beating. Her martial arts training proves useful against her puny adversary. The entire episode is captured on video by Lena Sorenson, a morbidly obese artist in a slump. Lucy becomes a national heroine, at least for a short while. It eventually emerges that the gunman was the child victim of paedophiles during his time in foster care. The two intended targets were his abusers. It gets worse for Lucy when one of the paedophiles murders a young girl after she had saved him. Lucy’s rise to the top, and her chance of securing a much-longed-for TV series, suddenly becomes history and as her dream crumbles, she berates herself fiercely for getting involved in the gun attack.
But Lena is there when Lucy needs her, even if Lucy didn’t ask. The chubby painter and sculptor becomes fixated with Lucy and signs up for a weight-loss program with her. Lucy is appalled by Lucy at first, viewing her as just another greedy and ill-disciplined pay-cheque. But Lena soon manages to get under her skin and Lucy becomes obsessed with ensuring Lena loses weight. Ironically, it becomes unhealthy for both. There is also the not inconsequential matter of Jerry, Lena’s ex-boyfriend who is a very nasty and manipulative dude with his own desperate agenda.
This novel is a beauty. It has some of the rawest language that you will encounter in a novel today, and contains some very explicit sex scenes. Lucy likes to screw both men and women, but enjoys control. She indulges her every fantasy, such as they are. The offensive remarks about fat people will leave you either shocked or falling about laughing. Some of Lucy’s insults are obscene to the point of utter hilarity. She refers to one woman as ‘Frisbee flaps’.
Lucy’s character has echoes of American Psycho in that she is fixated upon the health of her body, her clothing, her company and overall image, whist remaining a control freak. She has a dissociative disorder but, unlike Patrick Bateman, is not entirely lost to humanity. There is, however, an element of psychopathic behaviour to her life. Yet as the story progresses, we begin to better understand why Lucy is so driven and hell-bent upon maintaining control at all times. She has deep-seated issues that push her to be a doer, a person of action not afraid to step forward to challenge anyone.
As for Lena, the reader gets the full backstory piece by piece as we gain insight into why she is so over-weight. She too manages to surprise us with her inner-strength and determination. Both are engaging characters, but it is Lucy Brennan who commands one of the most memorable personalities that you will ever meet in modern fiction.
Without wishing to reveal too much of what is an excellently crafted plot, Rebel Voice can say that this is a laugh-out loud read with a strong element of psychological revelation. The two lead protagonists are in a battle with each other and themselves, as they fight to improve their standards. The trauma that they subject one another to is an integral part of their deepening and somewhat perverse relationship. Jerry really made a mistake when he tried to mess with either of these two.
The cast of characters is not large but all have depth. The settings and portrayal of the vacuous lives led by Miami Beach’s beautiful, plastic people is vivid. The matter-of-fact descriptions again echo American Psycho a little. But it is the dialogue and interplay between Lucy and… everyone, but especially Lena, that makes this book the classic that it’s sure to become. Here are some examples of Lucy Brennan’s rapier wit.
“However, some squeaky-clean kid, Stephen Abbot, who makes Justin Bieber look like the bastard love child of Iggy Pop and Amy Winehouse, is pouting at the screen”
Or how about this one?
“Why do I waste my breath with bitches that think a good threesome has to include Ben and Jerry”
Imagine Lucy Brennan at your Christmas dinner, sitting next to Auntie Brigid who attends the novena every Monday night.
Yet, should you feel that The Sex Lives Of Siamese Twins is no more than a raucous romp through southern Florida, let Rebel Voice assure you that it is a deeply profound exploration of human suffering, abuse, psychological weaknesses and how we deal with them. It must be noted that the noblest people in this both are both Lucy and Lena. For all their bluster and flaws, particularly those of Lucy, there lies a thoroughly decent person beneath each. The problem that both of these formidable women have, and it’s a malaise common to too many good women, is that they have suffered at the hands of men, bad men. As much as Lucy speaks of women as ho’s and bitches, it’s the men in this novel who are the real assholes. The Sex Lives Of Siamese Twins might be the most feminist book you will ever read.
The title, by the way, comes from a documentary that both Lucy and Lena are following about the sex lives of Siamese twin girls. One sister wants to shag her boyfriend while the other wants to stop her as she finds the entire matter to be icky. They both eventually realize that they are more important to each other than any man will ever be. Just like Lucy and Lena.
Sult scale rating: 8.5 out of 10. Excellent story with a great plot, captivating characters and dialogue to die for. Lucy Brennan is a one-off and you will never forget her. Caution is advised as the language is adult in places and might be regarded as highly offensive, especially to those who are overweight. There are also numerous full-on, although not protracted, sex scenes. You have been warned.
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(book review 154)