Sometimes simply saying whether a book is, for lack of better terms, good or bad isn’t quite the point. Sometimes, you’ll read a book and not even be sure which of those descriptors fights. Hell, if you’re smart with words and stuff, you might be able to come up with something better than good or bad.
Point is, once I finished Irvine Welsh’s The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins I wasn’t sure if I thought it was good, bad, or whatever other generically framed connotation you want to slap on top.
And you know what, I’m not sure it matters all that much.
Don’t get me wrong, I found it to be an enjoyable read, got through everything pretty quickly—which has to count for something—but when I finished, the first thing I thought was: Man, I wish I was able to have read this as a book for a class, because all I want to do is discuss this thing with someone.
The joy of this novel isn’t whether or not it’s entertaining (which, frankly, it is) or if its got some actual funny moments (again, it does), but that it’s really quite thought provoking.
First off, our foul-mouthed, sexed-up, uber-weight-conscious personal trainer protagonist Lucy Brennan is unlike just about any other leading lady I’ve met in literature. She speaks her mind, curses (and fucks) like a sailor, looks down on anyone with a BMI even a tick above register and has a troubled past.
Of course, this is only half the story, because our other main character is Lena Sorensen, a lonely, overweight artist who popped into Lucy’s life after capturing a seemingly heroic event unfold on a South Beach Miami highway.
As Lucy leaves a failed romantic evening, she gets caught up in a chase—one gunman and two fleeing victims on the road she finds herself on. In an instant, she reacts and knocks the gunman to the ground, allowing the other two to get off. Not surprisingly, Sorenson’s video turns Brennan into a media sensation, competing for American’s rapt attention with the other story-du-jour—that of conjoined twins Anabelle and Amy, and the should-they, shouldn’t-they debate about a risky separation operation so that Anabelle can have sex with her boyfriend.
That would all be fine (and, moderately entertaining) fodder for the rest of the story, but there’s a twist: those two fleeing “victims” were actually pedophiles that had attacked the gunman as a child.
We find this all out just as Lucy and Lena are starting to get closer, the latter having hired the former as her trainer. What initially appears to be a one-way relationship bordering on stalking (Lena to Lucy), turns out to be much more. Just as America becomes obsessed with the sex lives of the twins, so too do Lucy and Lena become more and more intertwined with one another’s lives.
There’s more that happens and some actual page-turning plot twists that I’ll leave for you to find out, but again, as I noted at the top here, they’re all sort of background noise to the more intriguing questions Welsh brings up in his biting social commentary.
Why are we so obsessed with sex? How about with how we look or where we live? What are the parameters of privacy, and when does the public’s “right to know” infringe upon those boundaries? Is there really such a thing as the public’s “right to know”, when it comes to issues like the ones the twins are dealing with?