I'd recommend all 5 of the Patrick Melrose novels to everyone. Here's a chronicle of a life, despite one of the upperclass English, that spiraled to hell and back.
In the early novels, we see Patrick as a victim of sexual abuse during his childhood. In the next 3 novels, we see him bury his father who molested him, be an alcoholic, get married, commit adultery, and basically throw his life away.
In the last novel, we at least see a process of healing. In At Last, Eleanor, Patrick's mother, has passed away. Could this be the answer to all of Patrick's unresolved issues? Maybe. I'm not sure the novel points to a direct answer, but I'd like to believe that Patrick is free at last of his parents who have subjected him to sexual and psychological abuse.
At Last is very redeeming. We see Patrick finally coming to terms with his own family: his two boys whom he seem to have neglected and his estranged wife, who left him because of his adulterous relationships, his drinking, and whatnot. At the end of the novel, Patrick realizes that maybe all is not lost and that, finally, he'd get the love that seemed to be rather elusive during his lifetime.
Edward St. Aubyn's prose is beautiful and effortlessly switches from acerbic humor to melancholic thoughts. The writing is very controlled, with the shifts in points of view so seamless that you can't help but get carried away with it. His humor reminds me of Evelyn Waugh, his drama of Julian Barnes and Graham Greene sometimes.
I hope that St. Aubyn comes up with another novel soon. I'll read anything he'd write. The Patrick Melrose novels, perhaps because of their semi-autobiographical nature, have a bittersweet tinge to them. But that's real life, no? We can't have everything all sugar and spice.
Read this book if:
- You're into short but pithy novels.
- You know that semi-autobiographical novels are usually great works of fiction.
- You have a love-hate relationship with Patrick Melrose.