By turns harrowing and hilarious, this ambitious novel cycle dissects the English upper class. Edward St. Aubyn offers his listener the often darkly funny and self-loathing world of privilege as we follow Patrick Melrose's story of abuse, addiction, and recovery from the age of five into early middle age. The Patrick Melrose novels comprise a modern masterpiece by one of "the most brilliant English novelists of his generation" (Alan Hollinghurst).
"beautifully, brilliantly wrought"
The author of the Patrick Melrose novels presents a razor-sharp, fabulously entertaining satire that cuts to the quick of some of the deepest questions about the place of art in our celebrity-obsessed culture. In conversation with Francine Prose.
Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels were some of the most celebrated works of fiction of the past decade. Now St. Aubyn returns with a hilariously smart send-up of a certain major British literary award. The judges on the panel of the Elysian Prize for Literature must get through hundreds of submissions to find the best book of the year. Meanwhile, a host of writers are desperate for Elysian attention: the brilliant writer and serial heartbreaker Katherine Burns; the lovelorn debut novelist Sam Black; and Bunjee, convinced that his magnum opus, The Mulberry Elephant, will take the literary world by storm.
"Taking Down the Booker Prize"
At his mother’s family house in the south of France, Patrick Melrose has the run of a magical garden. Bravely imaginative and self-sufficient, five-year-old Patrick encounters the volatile lives of adults with care. His father, David, rules with considered cruelty, and Eleanor, his mother, has retreated into drink. They are expecting guests for dinner. But this afternoon is unlike the chain of summer days before, and the shocking events that precede the guests’ arrival tear Patrick's world in two.
At Last begins as friends, relatives, and foes trickle in to pay final respects to his mother, Eleanor. An American heiress, Eleanor married into the British aristocracy, giving up the grandeur of her upbringing for "good works" freely bestowed on everyone but her own son, who finds himself questioning whether his transition to a life without parents will indeed be the liberation he had so long imagined. The service ends, and family and friends gather for a final party.
Each of the judges of the Elysian Prize for literature has a reason for accepting the job. For the chairman, MP Malcolm Craig, it is backbench boredom, media personality Jo Cross is on the hunt for a 'relevant' novel, and Oxbridge academic Vanessa Shaw is determined to discover good writing. But for Penny Feathers of the Foreign Office, it's all just getting in the way of writing her own thriller.
Twenty-two years old and in the grip of a massive addiction, Patrick Melrose is forced to fly to New York to collect his father's ashes. Over the course of a weekend, Patrick’s remorseless search for drugs on the avenues of Manhattan, haunted by old acquaintances and insistent inner voices, sends him into a nightmarish spiral. Alone in his room at the Pierre Hotel, he pushes body and mind to the very edge - desperate always to stay one step ahead of his rapidly encroaching past.
As friends, relatives, and foes trickle in to pay their final respects to his mother, Eleanor, Patrick Melrose finds himself questioning whether a life without parents will be the liberation he has so long imagined. Yet as the memorial service ends and the family gathers one last time, amidst the social niceties and the social horrors, the calms and the rapids, Patrick begins to sense a new current: the chance of some form of safety - at last.
The once-illustrious, once-wealthy Melroses are in peril. Caught up in the wreckage of broken promises, child-rearing, adultery, and assisted suicide, Patrick finds his wife Mary consumed by motherhood, his mother in thrall to a New Age foundation, and his young son Robert understanding far more than he should. But even as the family struggles against the pull of its ever-present past, a new generation brings a new tenderness, and the possibility of change.
Patrick Melrose, cleaned-up and world-weary, is a reluctant guest at a glittering party deep in the English countryside. Amid a crowd of flitting social dragonflies, he finds his search for redemption and capacity for forgiveness challenged by his observation of the cruelties around him. Armed with his biting wit and a newly fashioned openness, can Patrick, who has been to the furthest limits of experience and back again, find release from the savageries of his childhood?