Anthony's Reviews > Skagboys

Skagboys by Irvine Welsh
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M 50x66
's review
May 20, 2012

it was ok

Having visited Irvine Welsh's website I couldn’t help but smugly chortle at the irony of the unfortunate placement of his two most recent titles, "Reheated Cabbage" and "Skagboys"(his *third return to Renton & co.), side by side.

So what makes this outing any different?

In short absolutely nothing. Coming in at close to 550 pages the book is a very laborious rehash of "boy meets drugs". In fact the only reason I actually finished the book was so I wouldn't concede ground to a hipster defence of, "it really picked up" or "you never gave it a chance". Skagboys is by far Welsh’s most tired, leggy and phoned in effort to date with tiresome shock tactics regularly inserted to keep a paint by numbers narrative ticking over. Where’s Trainspotting was a compact succinct collection of vignettes packed with humour and interesting characters and anecdotes, Skagboys reads like a taxi man’s parody filled with long winded tales, soapbox social commentary and caricature larger than life personas.
Character development is non-existent with Renton reduced to nothing more than a whiny continuous loop of his “choose life” rant, Sick Boy a grating scumbag-with-a-heart-buried-beneath-the-Skag enigma the reader is patronised into feeling empathy for, Spud is eh likesay eh Spud and Alison a watered down Renton with a fanny. In fact the entire ensemble are really only there to serve as plot devices and points of interaction for Renton.

Of course being an Irvine Welsh book Skagboys is still full of clever patter and some nice turn of phrase which show he is still more than capable. However, on this occasion it’s hard to argue Welsh has not succumbed to his own famous George Best analogy of, “had it, lost it”. I’ve no doubt Skagboys will still be lauded by diehards as a masterpiece with any criticism considered to be nothing more than “Guardian leftism”. However, if you’re really honest with yourself and look beyond the reminisce-package clap trap you’ll see that Skagboys isn’t so much revisiting the golden years of Tenerife with the lads as heading to Blackpool with your Auntie.
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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

typical. your politics fucked it up. i doubt you read it.


Nigeyb Guardian leftism? What's that all about?

I'm curious to know the extent to which you have enjoyed previous books by Irvine Welsh. There's a hint in your review that you might perceive Trainspotting to be a classic and this book to be a mere rehash. How do you feel about Trainspotting?

Assuming you liked Trainspotting and were therefore disappointed by this, I didn't have the same reaction. Quite the contrary. I loved every page. It's like a Scottish version of the superb TV series The Wire - directly or indirectly touching on all aspects of the drug experience during the Thatcher years whilst focussing on a core of working class lads from Leith. That's what makes it more than just a watered down version of Trainspotting and Porno. It's such a shame that Welsh is no longer flavour of the month, as this book is absolutely superb - just as Trainspotting and Porno were before it.


Anthony I love Trainspotting. I think its a sharp, funny, and succinct generation definer.

My problem with Skagboys is I don't think it brought anything new to the table. Including Glue this is Welsh's 4th story revolving around the Trainspotting crew. I personally didn't glean any extra insight into any of the characters and felt, for the the most part, it was just tedious repetition.

Had I not read the other 3 installments then yes I'm sure I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more, but reviewing it in the context of a collection I found it quite disappointing.

N.B I also think Glue is his best book after Trainspotting.


Nigeyb Anthony wrote: "I love Trainspotting. I think its a sharp, funny, and succinct generation definer.

My problem with Skagboys is I don't think it brought anything new to the table. Including Glue this is Welsh's 4t..."


Glue is great. I marginally preferred Porno - can't remember either very clearly now but do recall finding Porno hilarious.

Thanks for the reply. Funny how two readers, that's you and I, with broadly similar reading history (in terms of Irvine Welsh) can respond so differently to the same book. I really did love every page of Skagboys - though acknowledge that you're right when you say it doesn't add much extra insight, but "tedious repetition"? Not for this gadge.


Anthony No, I can't really remember them myself. Although I do know I loved Glue until everything got a bit convenient towards the end.
To be fair most of my Trainspotting mates would be in your camp(needed a bit more Begby for me!).


Nigeyb Just wrote my own review (having finished it earlier today)...

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


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