Welsh still overflows with predicaments to thrust his antiheroes into, for better and for worse.


The miscreants from Trainspotting (1993) return, off heroin and more financially stable but still prone to calamity.

The fourth novel in Welsh’s series—following the 2002 sequel Porno and the 2012 prequel Skagboys—thrusts the narrative into 2015 and 2016, with most of the leads pursuing lives beyond junk, beat downs, and petty thievery. Begbie has mined his thuggish Edinburgh past to become a rising star in the LA art world. Renton is a globe-trotting DJ manager. And Simon, aka Sick Boy, is an oversexed owner of an escort service. All are cleaner but not exactly clean, which Welsh plays for comic effect in the early going: Simon sends his brother-in-law on a sex-obsessed midlife crisis after dosing him with MDMA, and Renton is forever chasing down fixes for his demanding clients. Darker circumstances reunite the group as they’re blackmailed into an organ-harvesting scheme that ropes in their old friend Spud, and things get grotesque and absurd quickly: Renton needs to leave a Berlin dance festival and ferry his laptop to an ad hoc operating theater so he can play a YouTube video demonstrating kidney surgery. Welsh’s peculiar talent is finding the comedy in sex, addiction, betrayal, and death, and he handles the job so deftly that the novel nearly qualifies as comfort reading even in gross-out mode. (The steepest hurdle is the prose mimicking the narrators’ thick Scottish burrs, with Spud’s nearly impenetrable: “Ah pure dinnae want tae look up, cause sometimes ye git a radge or a wideo giein ye hassle”). And scenes featuring DMT trips are rendered in graphic-novel form, an inventive touch. Still, Welsh tends toward the gassy, with detours into soccer and a weak subplot involving a cop stalking Begbie. His characters have endearingly messy lives, but the mess is often in the prose, too.

Welsh still overflows with predicaments to thrust his antiheroes into, for better and for worse.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61219-755-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.


Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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Bestselling Hannah (True Colors, 2009, etc.) sabotages a worthy effort with an overly neat resolution.


A Russian refugee’s terrible secret overshadows her family life.

Meredith, heir apparent to her family’s thriving Washington State apple enterprises, and Nina, a globetrotting photojournalist, grew up feeling marginalized by their mother. Anya saw her daughters as merely incidental to her grateful love for their father Evan, who rescued her from a German prison camp. The girls know neither their mother’s true age, nor the answers to several other mysteries: her color-blindness, her habit of hoarding food despite the family’s prosperity and the significance of her “winter garden” with its odd Cyrillic-inscribed columns. The only thawing in Anya’s mien occurs when she relates a fairy tale about a peasant girl who meets a prince and their struggles to live happily ever after during the reign of a tyrannical Black Knight. After Evan dies, the family comes unraveled: Anya shows signs of dementia; Nina and Meredith feud over whether to move Mom from her beloved dacha-style home, named Belye Nochi after the summer “white nights” of her native Leningrad (St. Petersburg). Anya, now elderly but of preternaturally youthful appearance—her white hair has been that way as long as the girls can remember—keeps babbling about leather belts boiled for soup, furniture broken up for firewood and other oddities. Prompted by her daughters’ snooping and a few vodka-driven dinners, she grudgingly divulges her story. She is not Anya, but Vera, sole survivor of a Russian family; her father, grandmother, mother, sister, husband and two children were all lost either to Stalin’s terror or during the German army’s siege of Leningrad. Anya’s chronicle of the 900-day siege, during which more than half a million civilians perished from hunger and cold, imparts new gravitas to the novel, easily overwhelming her daughters’ more conventional “issues.” The effect, however, is all but vitiated by a manipulative and contrived ending.

Bestselling Hannah (True Colors, 2009, etc.) sabotages a worthy effort with an overly neat resolution.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-36412-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2009

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