Having loved the Patrick Melrose Trilogy ("Never Mind", "Bad News" and "Some Hope") and the wonderful "Mother's Milk", I had to know what lay in wait for Patrick. Although the books can be read alone, it makes more sense if you read them in order, especially as a lot of the books look back to Patrick's childhood and his relationship with his parents. In the first three books, the emphasis is on the relationship Patrick had with his father and the last two books concentrate on his mother.
Patrick comes from a long line of embittered and twisted people. His father an abusive and vicious man, his mother a former alcoholic who seemed to want to help everyone, except her son. Much of the depression Patrick feels during the course of the novels relates to the loss of his childhood home; which his mother, Eleanor, had given to a new age healing group - or charlatans, as Patrick feels with some realistic resentment. His feelings of anger against his parents has led to various self destructive behaviours - including drug addiction (brilliantly portrayed in "Bad News") and alcholism. His family were once wealthy, some members still are, but Patrick's mother and her sister Nancy, felt cheated out of their inheritance and Patrick feels this has continued with his disinheritance and that of his sons.
Most of the books in this brilliant series take place over a small time frame - a dinner party, a visit to America to collect his fathers ashes, a party. This volume takes place during Eleanor's funeral. Eleanor has been ill a long while and her funeral forces Patrick to look back at his complicated feelings for his mother. Eleanor is seen as saintly by some, childlike by others and gullable by others. There are many characters that readers will recognise from previous books - Nicholas Pratt, the lovely Mary, Kettle and others. Although many of the people are self absorbed, cynical, snobbish and unkind, it is like visiting a family - albeit a very damaged and dysfunctional one! Having followed Patrick's life this far, you wish him well. Despite all his flaws, Patrick is a likeable and damaged man and you want life to be kind to him.
As always, Edward St Aubyn writing is stunning. His prose is beautiful, his dialogue witty, his observations sharp. He is a joy to read. All of the books are excellent and this certainly is no exception. I highly recommend them all and anything by this author. He is truly brilliant and I love his work.