Skagboys

Irvine Welsh

Skagboys

In the prequel to Trainspotting, 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. 3.6 out of 5 based on 11 reviews
Skagboys

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 560
RRP
Date of Publication April 2012
ISBN 978-0224087902
Publisher Jonathan Cape
 

In the prequel to Trainspotting, 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.

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Reviews

The Times

Ben Machell

Welsh's finest work to date … It’s an undeniably funny book, funny in that three-drink wit way of being at once visceral and true. Welsh’s knack for dialogue — both internal and conversational — remains virtuosic, often exhilarating. It makes for characters you can’t help but care about, even the psychopaths and amoral chancers like Begbie and Sick Boy (although Welsh’s most perfect creation, now, is surely the hapless Spud, who has never seemed more touching and tragic).

14/04/2012

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The Financial Times

Sam Leith

It’s a bit of a mess. But then Moby-Dick is a bit of a mess. The lives Skagboys describes are a lot of a mess. And mess — violence begetting violence not karmically but randomly; cause and effect in freefall — is the medium they inhabit. In terms of sustaining and developing an idea – heroin, perhaps, as Welsh’s white whale — the cumulative force of Skagboys is something close to magnificent. There are occasional passages of hallucinatory lyricism and an ending that’s as good as anything he’s done, and that reminded me, tonally, of Browning’s “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”. From a sometimes uneven writer this is an extraordinary piece of work.

14/04/2012

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The Daily Telegraph

Keith Miller

... Welsh somehow manages to be both the Zola of Thérèse Raquin, and Dostoevsky’s Underground Man, ranging between a quasi-scientific perspective and a more immersed, troubling one. That he does so for the most part in a furious low Scots vernacular — filthy, or fulthy, and hugely funny at times — may seem remarkable in itself, particularly to the non-native reader ... Crucially for a writer whose rare ventures into sentimentality tend to be about male friendship, Welsh shows his characters betraying one another time and time again.

16/04/2012

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The Sunday Times

Robert Collins

Like Trainspotting, Skagboys thrusts along with the exuberance of its episodic stories. Welsh hasn’t lost his flair for comic set pieces ... Beneath all the humour and the thrills of his characters’ escapades, there’s little depth. At this vast length, Skagboys also lacks Trainspotting’s punch. But for a novel this big, it hangs together impressively well — even if, like Welsh’s addicts, it’s really just chasing the same old high again and again.

15/04/2012

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The Literary Review

Anthony Cummins

For better or worse, Welsh hardly curbs his taste for Grand Guignol: someone stumbles upon his lover’s secretly aborted foetus while trying to rescue a puppy from a rubbish chute; Begbie smears his girlfriend’s bloodied knickers in her face when she pleads for help during a miscarriage; a bent ex-copper pays Sick Boy to rape his barely conscious teenage lover. As I say, not everyone will stomach this, which is fair enough, but a pity all the same, because there’s so much energy here.

01/05/2012

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Times Literary Supplement

James Purdon

Compared to Trainspotting – and no book of Welsh’s can escape the comparison – there isn’t much to grab a reader’s attention in this inordinately long novel. It has comic moments, it has disgusting moments, but it has nothing to match the affective force or insight which Trainspotting achieved at the death of baby Dawn, or the stabbing of Dode, or the funeral of Renton’s brother.

06/07/2012

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The Evening Standard

Alistair McKay

The strength of Skagboys lies in its characters, and Welsh’s poetic rendering of their innermost thoughts … There is more plot than in Trainspotting, and more concentration on the supply and demand side of the drug culture. The ending, where Welsh’s skag-starved losers mount an assault on a drug factory, is daft. But plot isn’t really Welsh’s thing. He is that odd thing: a literary writer who disguises his intelligence. He’s also a moral writer, albeit one with pornographic energy.

05/04/2012

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The Independent

Arifa Akbar

Where his family life was a backdrop in Trainspotting, here it is rigorously, painfully, depicted, both before and after the fracturing grief of Wee Davie's death and his drug habit. In some respects, Renton appeared younger in Trainspotting, perhaps because Skagboys offers greater emotionally depth and insight ... Skagboys lacks the political urgency of its predecessor, and its success lies simply in its absorbing, energetic writing. Welsh's descriptive style is masterful – crude, violent and poetic by turns – but it is dialogue for which he has the Midas touch.

06/04/2012

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The Observer

Bella Bathurst

Twenty years later, he's too far from a world he was already distanced from when Trainspotting came out. Besides, part of the problem of writing about drugs is that almost by definition, every fix gets a little less interesting: heroin, like happiness, starts to write white. For hardcore enthusiasts, Skagboys' more measured pace and broad overview is a treat. For everyone else Trainspotting said it all, and said it better.

15/04/2012

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Scotland on Sunday

David Stenhouse

But though the music, and the football matches playing on pub TV pinpoint the date, nothing else does. For a man who made his name through his grasp of the pungent, heteroglossia of Edinburgh speech, Welsh seems to have lost his grip on how people spoke in the 80s ... The characters (it’s tempting to say “cast” after the success of the play and film of the book) in Trainspotting appeared fully formed the first time we met them. They had just enough back story already to justify their actions. The danger with this book is that it slips into trite psychology to explain what once exploded on the page with such power in Trainspotting.

01/04/2012

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The Guardian

Theo Tait

When the sequel, Porno, came out 10 years ago, he said that he had written "a huge amount more of Trainspotting than went into the book, but I didn't want to rehash that". Well, now he's done exactly that, and the result is Skagboys. Presumably this is why it reads like somebody's interesting but confused first novel: nakedly autobiographical, stylistically uneven, with some fascinating passages and a fair amount of earnest and plodding social realism.

11/04/2012

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