Reviews

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Coinciding with the publication of At Last, this omnibus edition shows that St. Aubyn's five Patrick Melrose novels may well constitute one of the most ambitious novel cycles since Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. Where Powell wrote about a wide swath of 20th-century English social history, St. Aubyn's milieu is more focused and constrained, detailing the life of the scion of the eccentric, wealthy, and cruel David and Eleanor Melrose. Never Mind introduces the Melrose family over the course of a day and a half at their home in Provence, France: Dr. David Melrose, wife Eleanor, the five-year-old Patrick, and a vast assortment of hangers-on attracted to aristocracy and wealth. The novel also introduces the author's chief narrative technique of confining foreground action to a short time span, which affords him ample opportunity for musing and introspection, rendered with elegant, pithy prose. In Bad News, Patrick is 22 and headed to New York in the 1980s "to collect my father's corpse," as he explains at customs. He's also addicted to heroin and cocaine, and devotes as much time searching for drugs as he does coming to terms with his hated father and his death. Eight years later, in Some Hope, Patrick is studying law (by renting courtroom dramas) and recovering, from both addiction and an excruciating personal history: "his past lay before him like a corpse waiting to be embalmed." And in Mother's Milk, the most hopeful of the books in this volume, Patrick is married, somewhat unhappily, and a father (the amazing opening pages are written from the newborn Robert's perspective; only hours old, he notes that "he couldn't live with so much doubt and so much intensity"). Still haunted by his own father, Patrick must deal with his mother's crackpot philanthropy, sure to destroy the family fortune. This cycle is no ordinary family saga, or even that of an extraordinary family (which the Melrose clan certainly is); plot summaries don't touch on St. Aubyn's gift. Though the author has clearly mined his own experience, he has refined it into something exquisite, an exploration of consciousness and the journey from the helplessness of childhood to "the pure inevitability of things being as they were," as elegant a definition of acceptance as anyone is likely to write. And his serious purpose is buoyed by an abundant wit, laugh-out-loud funniness, and piercing observations into the world of privilege and entitlement. Agent: Aitken Alexander Associates. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Coinciding with the publication of At Last, this omnibus edition shows that St. Aubyn's five Patrick Melrose novels may well constitute one of the most ambitious novel cycles since Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. Where Powell wrote about a wide swath of 20th-century English social history, St. Aubyn's milieu is more focused and constrained, detailing the life of the scion of the eccentric, wealthy, and cruel David and Eleanor Melrose. Never Mind introduces the Melrose family over the course of a day and a half at their home in Provence, France: Dr. David Melrose, wife Eleanor, the five-year-old Patrick, and a vast assortment of hangers-on attracted to aristocracy and wealth. The novel also introduces the author's chief narrative technique of confining foreground action to a short time span, which affords him ample opportunity for musing and introspection, rendered with elegant, pithy prose. In Bad News, Patrick is 22 and headed to New York in the 1980s "to collect my father's corpse," as he explains at customs. He's also addicted to heroin and cocaine, and devotes as much time searching for drugs as he does coming to terms with his hated father and his death. Eight years later, in Some Hope, Patrick is studying law (by renting courtroom dramas) and recovering, from both addiction and an excruciating personal history: "his past lay before him like a corpse waiting to be embalmed." And in Mother's Milk, the most hopeful of the books in this volume, Patrick is married, somewhat unhappily, and a father (the amazing opening pages are written from the newborn Robert's perspective; only hours old, he notes that "he couldn't live with so much doubt and so much intensity"). Still haunted by his own father, Patrick must deal with his mother's crackpot philanthropy, sure to destroy the family fortune. This cycle is no ordinary family saga, or even that of an extraordinary family (which the Melrose clan certainly is); plot summaries don't touch on St. Aubyn's gift. Though the author has clearly mined his own experience, he has refined it into something exquisite, an exploration of consciousness and the journey from the helplessness of childhood to "the pure inevitability of things being as they were," as elegant a definition of acceptance as anyone is likely to write. And his serious purpose is buoyed by an abundant wit, laugh-out-loud funniness, and piercing observations into the world of privilege and entitlement. Agent: Aitken Alexander Associates. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

This volume introduces American readers to the first four Melrose novels Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother's Milk published in Great Britian from 1992 to 2006. (The fifth book, At Last, is available as a separate volume.) In Never Mind, Patrick is five years old, living in Provence with his incredibly rich American mother, Eleanor, and his sadistic, abusive English father, David. In Bad News, Patrick, now 22, goes to New York to collect David's ashes, and there he feeds his addiction to various drugs in a spectacular fashion, spending over $10,000 in the course of a single day. If Bad News calls to mind Bright Lights, Big City, Some Hope is more like Wodehouse, with Patrick, now sober, attending a country-house party at which Princess Margaret is also a guest. Mother's Milk returns to Provence, where Patrick is vacationing with his wife and sons in the house that Eleanor has turned into a New Age wellness center. Mother's Milk was a Man Booker finalist, making this volume especially welcome for readers who savor literary British fiction.--Quinn, Mary Ellen Copyright 2010 Booklist