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Trainspotting Paperback – June 17, 1996

237 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Irvine Welsh's controversial first novel, set on the heroin-addicted fringe of working-class youth in Edinburgh, is yet another exploration of the dark side of Scottishness. The main character, Mark Renton, is at the center of a clique of nihilistic slacker junkies with no hopes and no possibilities, and only "mind-numbing and spirit-crushing" alternatives in the straight world they despise. This particular slice of humanity has nothing left but the blackest of humor and a sharpness of wit. American readers can use the glossary in the back to translate the slang and dialect--essential, since the dialogue makes the book. This is a bleak vision sung as musical comedy.


“The language in Trainspotting is... exhilarating once you get the hang of it, and finally poetic in its complications.... Literary in the best sense, using language at every level to tell a story.” (Jane Mendelsohn - New Republic)

“Blisteringly funny.... Don't abandon everything for the movie. It's worth making the effort with Trainspotting ?not merely because relatively few writers have rummaged through this particular enclave of British youth culture, but because even fewer have dug there so deeply.” (New York Times Book Review)

“It is funny, unflinchingly abrasive, authentic, and inventive, unerringly on—and off—the pulse. It is a true cult, the kind of novel you press on perfect strangers. It validates a world fiction hasn't recognized before.” (Times Out)

“Irvine Welsh writes with skill, wit, and compassion that amounts to genius. He is the best thing that has happened to British writing in decades.” (Nick Hornby - Sunday Times)

“Irvine Welsh may become one of the most significant writers in Britain. He writes with style, imagination, wit, and force, and in a voice which those alienated by much current fiction clearly want to hear.” (Times Literary Supplement)

“Irvine Welsh is the real thing—a marvelous admixture of nihilism and heartbreak, pinpoint realism (especially in dialect and tone) and almost archetypal universality.” (David Foster Wallace)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st American ed edition (June 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393314804
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393314809
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (237 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Irvine Welsh is the author of Trainspotting, Ecstasy, Glue, Porno, Filth, Marabou Stork Nightmares, The Acid House, If You Liked School, You'll Love Work, The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs and Reheated Cabbage. He divides his time between Florida, Ireland, and Scotland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Johnny Sideburns on November 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Finally. I no longer have to worry about buying a new paperback copy of this book every three months or so; this has always been a book that I've frequently enjoyed going back to multiple times after finishing...and now we've finally got a version that is built to last.
Most likely you've already seen the movie before deciding whether or not to read the book. Be forewarned, however; John Hodge's screenplay is a masterful job of bringing continuity to a series of stories that are in fact only loosely related. The book "Trainspotting" is comprised of a series of short stories previously published independently in various periodicals over a stretch of time...the stories deal with the same core of characters, but that is really all that ties them together. You will probably find that Danny Boyle's job of directing the "Trainspotting" movie looks even more impressive after reading even a quarter of the book.
The book does focus on a set of wrong-side-of-the-track friends involved with drugs, alcohol, petty crime, and anything else they can find to take their minds off their completely unfulfilling lives. An added challenge (and a fair extent of the book's charm) is that the book's dialogue and first-person narrative are written in the author's native Edinburgh dialect, making the book perhaps more accessible to Robert Burns scholars than the average non-Scots English speaker. However, there is a glossary in the back of the book that is rather helpful...and my personal recommendation is to read the book out loud whenever possible (I don't know why, but whenever I did this, the written words made more sense when heard as an audible accent).
If you liked the movie at all, the book is for you.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By "gwynyfar" on March 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
I'd seen the movie, but didn't know if I could bring myself to read the book. I had heard that it was even more graphic than the film, and was unsure of my capabilities to understand the Edinburgh dialect that Welsh had written the book in. However, after a visit to Glasgow, Scotland, I was reintroduced to the novel. I nearly bought it while I was there, but realized that it would not have the glossary that the American edition has. Upon my return, I immediately bought it, and finished it within days. The book is about a group of characters who are all somehow touched by the heroin culture of Edinburgh. Many are users, some are just friends of users. All the characters in the book are somehow linked together. They each tell at least one story through their own eyes. The reader is taken through a journey, shown the ins and outs of these people's addiction, attempts to kick the addiction, and their ultimate failures, either through death, or just through keeping on in their drug use. The characters are vivid and their situations are made quite real for the reader. By the end of the novel I was quite used to the Scottish dialect, and I was rather attached to the characters. I did not want the story to end. Though it is graphic at times, and the dialect is a challenge at the start, I definitely urge everyone to read this harshly entertaining and highly engrossing novel.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
You've seen the movie, now read the book (or vice versa). Despite the phantasmagorical nature the film adopts at times, the book is even more whacked out--in a good way-- not to mention rougher in many senses. Although it flows chronologically, the novel is plotless, skipping from vignette to vignette, told by a wide range of people. The main characters from the movie are the main characters in the book, but there are a number of stories narrated by more minor characters as well. This makes the whole thing more impressionistic and loose, and of course, allows space for many more entertaining stories. There are a few scenes that get really nasty, such as a scene where Renton has sex with his just-dead brother's pregnant wife in a bathroom after the funeral. The guys are also a fair bit older than the movie makes them out to be, Begbie is a good deal nastier, etc... It's actually rather amazing they found a movie in all the stories in the book. In any event, don't be intimidated by the dialect and slang, it's great fun once you get into it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dai-keag-ity on August 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
Written in a phonetic Scottish-English hybrid, this book is a challenge on the reader and soon bogs down the eye-brain connection as we sound through words the same way we once did in Sister Mary-Elizabeth's kindergarten class. Although this is not exactly the dead-on same story as the movie of like name, anyone whose seen and loved Trainspotting on screen will be glad to find Renton, Sickboy, Spuds, the sociopathic Francis Begby, clean-living Tommy (and Lizzie!) and all the rest of the gang here in the novel that inspired one of the freshest, grossest and funniest movies of the mid-1990's.

For those who do not know, Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting is set in Scotland in roughly contemporary times, and tells the tale of Mark Renton, a twenty-ish philosophical junky and his band of mates, as they run, walk and crawl through a sometimes dismal, sometimes upbeat life in a post-industrial, pre-future society. Among their adventurous efforts to keep themselves in heroin (supplied by a colorful man called Mother Superior--on account of the length of his habit) Renton and the others joyfully rob American tourists, steal TV's from old age homes, and generally push onward through an existence that holds no promise of a tomorrow. Along the way, some extremely strange events come to pass. Renton unexpectedly finds himself with a thoroughly jailbait girlfriend who is roughly thirteen going on thirty; Begby goes on the lam after a violent crime goes bad; and as he passes thru a vicious episode of the DT's, Renton looks on aghast with horror as a dead baby slinks in accusatory fashion over the ceiling above his head.

In case you can't guess, this is one strange novel.
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