Skip to main content

4th February 2014

Trainspotting: Book vs. film

Pam Kaur compares the groundbreaking novel by Irvine Welsh to Danny Boyle’s celebrated film adaptation

Trainspotting is the controversial first novel of Scottish author, Irvine Welsh. Set in the late ‘80s, it exposes us to the world of Edinburgh’s underclass antihero, Mark Renton, and his group of hedonistic and heroin addicted friends. The darker side of their Scottish psyche is peeled back, revealing complicated and controversial issues: HIV/AIDS, nationalism, abortion, the dole, heroin. Despite failing to reach the same level of mainstream success as the film adaptation directed by Danny Boyle, the book is a cult classic and critically acclaimed.

Admittedly, at first it isn’t a ‘fluid’ read. There is something awkward about reading the phonetic Scottish dialect. I mean, God help any foreign language students. Trying to get your head around passages like “ah whip oaf ma keks and sit oan the cold wet porcelain shunky” is a challenge for native English speakers. Yet it is well worth the effort; the ability to ‘read Scottish’ will become second nature after a while. It does add so much depth and character: you can hear them talking in their gritty accents as you read, making Trainspotting hard to put down.

What is interesting about Boyle’s adaptation is the way he manages to capture the zeitgeist of the ‘90s, which is less clear in Welsh’s work. One reassuring correlation between Boyle’s films is his ability to pick the right songs for exactly the right moments, changing the way you perceive and remember the scenes completely. I love the scenes featuring ‘90s britpop band Elastica: Justine Frischmann’s seductively gritty voice flows effortlessly around the shenanigans of Mark Renton. Altogether the soundtrack really epitomises the early to mid ‘90s music scene from the underground androgyny of Elastica to then club royalty Underworld. Boyle simply sums up a time and a place through good music, good directing and good casting.

More Coverage

Pairing Books With Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department 

To celebrate Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour coming to the UK, we’re here with the perfect book recommendation to match some of our favourite songs!

Audible plunges listeners into the depths of George Orwell’s 1984, leaving me dazed and hooked

Andrew Garfield stars as Winston Smith in ‘George Orwell’s 1984’, bringing Airstrip One to life through Audible’s dramatisation and leaving listeners craving more

The problem with publishing

We often view publishing as a way to make our voices heard on a public scale, but what if it is these same industries creating silence, too?

Spotify vs Audible: The battle for audiobook dominance

With streaming giant Spotify making its first steps into the world of audiobooks, could your next Spotify wrapped be dominated by Sally Rooney and Dolly Alderton rather than Taylor Swift?