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Young Adam

Alexander Trocchi

Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Oneworld Classics

Published : 1954, 2008

Copyright : Alexander Trocchi 1954

ISBN-10 : PB 1-84749-042-5
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-84749-042-1

Publisher's Write-Up

Set on a canal linking Glasgow and Edinburgh, Young Adam is the masterly literary debut by one of the most important British post-war novelists.

Trocchi's narrator is an outsider; a drifter working for the skipper of a barge. Together they discover a young woman's corpse floating in the canal. Tensions increase in cramped confines with the narrator's highly charged seduction of the skipper's wife. Compulsively readable, this is no ordinary thriller. It challenges conventional morality. The certainty of events and their meaning is far from objective.

'The Scottish George Best of the literary world.'

Irvine Welsh

'Alex Trocchi has the courage so essential to a writer. He writes about spirit, flesh, and death and the vision that comes through the flesh... he has been there and brought it back.'

William S. Burroughs

'The most brilliant man I’ve ever met.'

Allen Ginsberg
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Reader Reviews

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Review by Ben Macnair (300913) Rating (7/10)

Review by Ben Macnair
Rating 7/10
Young Adam is the author Alexander Trocchi’s first novel, and has an unconventional hero with a twisted morality, and a story line that follows its own logic.

This is not the most immediately accessible book or story, we do not find ourselves routing for the books central character Adam (played by the actor Ewan MacGregor in the film adaptation). As the novel progresses we find he is guilty of murder, is having an affair with Ella, the wife of Leslie, whose barge he lives and works on, and has done nothing in the past that he is particularly proud of.

Adam does not have the same morality of other people. He is selfish, and always ready to move onto the next job, the next lover, and the next town. The fact that he works on a barge between Glasgow and Edinburgh in the 1950’s shows his lack of roots, his willingness to move on, how he moves to his own beat, rather than the beat that his time and circumstances dictate. Like the writing style, his character is fluid, evolving, taking chances with the expected outcome.

There is some fine descriptive writing in the novel, and although it was fist published in 1954 it still stands up as a book, and a fine read. Trochhi was championed by the Beat Writers, with William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg being particularly vocal fans, and the book could be described as being akin to some beat writing. There are elements in the book that would have been shocking at the time it was written, but these moments, which include murder, or graphic descriptions of sex are more accepted now.

It has none of the structure that we might expect. It plays with time and place to tell the story, rather than being confined by the telling of that story. The corpse that Adam and Leslie find in the opening chapter is the body of the former lover Cathie that Adam accidentally killed, but the reader is not aware of that until later.

A scene in a fairground is particularly vivid, as are the court scenes where Adam goes to watch the trail of Daniel Goon, who is charged with the murder of Cathie, on purely circumstantial evidence and gossip rather than actual proof.

The hard lives that the characters live are well described, with sex seen as a small escape from the drudgery of everyday living.

The novel is described as a Thriller. It does pack a lot into its 160 pages, and the fact that there is no actual resolution to the story shows what a fine writer and storyteller Trochi is. A lesser writer would have gone for a happy ending and resolutions for all of the characters. Instead, Adam has committed Murder and Adultery, and other men are suffering for his actions, and he moves onto the next town where there is work and money to be earned.
Ben Macnair (30th September 2013)

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