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Mother's Milk Paperback – 12 Apr 2012

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Mother's Milk + At Last (The Patrick Melrose Novels) + Some Hope
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New edition edition (12 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 144720302X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447203025
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 101,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘So good – so fantastically well written, profound and humane . . . it is heartstopping’ Rachel Cooke, Observer

‘The Melrose sequence is now clearly one of the major achievements of contemporary British fiction’ Evening Standard

'The Melrose novels are a masterwork for the twenty-first century' Alice Sebold

‘The bravura quality of St Aubyn’s performance is irresistible. Brilliant’ Sunday Telegraph

Mother’s Milk has the cerebral excitement and piercing funniness of St Aubyn at his brilliant best’ Tatler

‘St Aubyn is a staggeringly good prose stylist and evidently has a big and open heart’ The Times

‘From the very first lines I was completely hooked . . . By turns witty, moving and an intense social comedy, I wept at the end but wouldn’t dream of giving away the totally unexpected reason’ Antonia Fraser, Sunday Telegraph

‘Blackly comic, superbly written fiction . . . His style is crisp and light; his similes exhilarating in their accuracy . . . St Aubyn writes with luminous tenderness of Patrick’s love for his sons’ Caroline Moore, Sunday Telegraph

‘I’ve loved Edward St Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels. Read them all, now’ David Nicholls

‘Wonderful caustic wit . . . Perhaps the very sprightliness of the prose – its lapidary concision and moral certitude – represents the cure for which the characters yearn. So much good writing is in itself a form of health’ Edmund White, Guardian

‘Perhaps the most brilliant English novelist of his generation’ Alan Hollinghurst

‘St Aubyn puts an entire family under a microscope, laying bare all its painful, unavoidable complexities. At once epic and intimate, appalling and comic, the novels are masterpieces, each and every one’ Maggie O’Farrell

‘His prose has an easy charm that masks a ferocious, searching intellect. As a sketcher of character, his wit — whether turned against pointless members of the aristocracy or hopeless crack dealers — is ticklingly wicked. As an analyser of broken minds and tired hearts he is as energetic, careful and creative as the perfect shrink. And when it comes to spinning a good yarn, whether over the grand scale or within a single page of anecdote, he has a natural talent for keeping you on the edge of your seat’ Melissa Katsoulis, The Times

‘The Patrick Melrose novels can be read as the navigational charts of a mariner desperate not to end up in the wretched harbor from which he embarked on a voyage that has led in and out of heroin addiction, alcoholism, marital infidelity and a range of behaviors for which the term ‘self-destructive’ is the mildest of euphemisms. Some of the most perceptive, elegantly written and hilarious novels of our era. . . Remarkable’ Francine Prose, New York Times

‘St Aubyn conveys the chaos of emotion, the confusion of heightened sensation, and the daunting contradictions of intellectual endeavour with a force and subtlety that have an exhilarating, almost therapeutic effect’ Francis Wyndham, New York Review of Books

‘A masterpiece. Edward St Aubyn is a writer of immense gifts’ Patrick McGrath

'Irony courses through these pages like adrenaline . . . Patrick’s intelligence processes his predicaments into elegant, lucid, dispassionate, near-aphoristic formulations . . . Brimming with witty flair, sardonic perceptiveness and literary finesse’ Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

‘A humane meditation on lives blighted by the sins of the previous generation. St Aubyn remains among the cream of British novelists’ Sunday Times

‘The main joy of a St Aubyn novel is the exquisite clarity of his prose, the almost uncanny sense he gives that, in language as in mathematical formulae, precision and beauty invariably point to truth . . . Characters in St Aubyn novels are hyper-articulate, and the witty dialogue is here, as ever, one of the chief joys’ Suzi Feay, Financial Times

‘The wit of Wilde, the lightness of Wodehouse and the waspishness of Waugh. A joy’ Zadie Smith, Harpers

Book Description

WINNER OF THE 2006 SOUTH BANK LITERATURE AWARD The once illustrious, once wealthy Melroses are in peril. Caught in the wreckage of broken promises, child-rearing, adultery and assisted suicide, Patrick finds his wife consumed by motherhood, his mother consumed by a New Age foundation, and his five-year-old son Robert understanding far more than he ought. Showcasing Edward St Aubyn’s ability to combine the most excruciating emotional pain with the driest comedy, Mother's Milk is a dazzling exploration of the troubled allegiances between parents and children, husbands and wives. Acerbically witty, disarmingly tender, it goes to the core of a family trapped in the remains of its ever-present past. 'So good - so fantastically well-written, profound and humane . . . it is heart-stopping' Observer 'The bravura quality of St Aubyn's performance is irresistible' Sunday Telegraph 'Wonderful caustic wit . . . Polished yet profound, it’s even better than his previous work, and that’s saying something’ Guardian 'Mother's Milk has the cerebral excitement and piercing funniness of St Aubyn at his brilliant best' Tatler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By s k on 16 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback
Mother's Milk is the fourth of Edward St Aubyn's quintet of Melrose novels, and although the book can stand alone, it is advisable to read the Some Hope trilogy beforehand, as its torrid backstory illuminates the causes of Patrick's discontent. The present narrative drifts over four consecutive Augusts and runs from 2000 to 2003. St Aubyn employs multiple perspectives and channels the family's disintegration through the outlets of Patrick, Mary (his wife), and Robert, their eldest son. But this new epoch offers no redemption for Patrick, his life a confusion of marriage, adultery, and kids.

Patrick's problems with the Melrose brood are legion: Mary mollycoddles their newborn son Thomas; his mother, Eleanor, has disinherited him in favour of a New Age sect called the Transpersonal Foundation; and Robert, analytic and introverted, is a gifted clone of his father, an outcome for which Patrick carries the blame. The viciousness of Patrick's responses to these situations highlights his father's ominous influence. But his neurotic avoidance of replicating David's insidious faults hinders him from being a good father, as he wastes too much time in cerebral, drunken reflection rather than delivering practical, loving care. The book, then, charts Patrick's unsuccessful negotiations among those vying for (or deflecting) his attention, negotiations which he fails to perform convincingly.

The novel's prose is stunning, insightful and aphoristic, but there are some troubling discontinuities between this book and the previous three. In the 1990 of Some Hope, Patrick is thirty, while in the year 2000, the year in which Mother's Milk commences, he is forty-two. The combined effect of the inconsistencies is jarring.
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88 of 96 people found the following review helpful By B. Ravichandran on 1 Oct. 2006
Format: Hardcover
The story is painful; the setting all too familiar and real; writing suffused with irony, metaphors and witticisms - behold Mother's Milk. Hermoine Lee, the chair of the judges of this year's Booker entries, described this book as "wickedly funny." And she would be right.

I began this book with no particular enthusiasm, but a little research on the internet gave me enough background about the author to place the work in its context. And this work centres around one theme - the place of a mother in, and how it pervades into the depth of every aspect of, a simple family.

Patrick Melrose is suffering from a midlife crisis. His wife, Mary, has just given birth to her second son, Thomas, and has become extremely close to him - to the point of sacrificing her sexual, and to some extent, emotional connection with her husband. Patrick, the lawyer, successfully manages to pass on his sarcasm and twisted daggers of wit straight to his precocious first son, Robert, who, by the age of five, becomes a master in impersonating other people.

While St Aubyn takes us through the functioning of this rather functional family, we see each character in relation to their mother, and how it has shaped their past, present, and future. The contrast between self-sacrificing Mary's self-obsessed mother and the betrayed and disappointed Patrick's philanthropist and neglectful mother is incisive. The novel touches among various aspects of contemporary family life, particularly of parenting, marriage, relationships, trust, adultery, and euthanasia.

The novel is described through wide-ranging narratives during four summers of 2000 to 2003. The beauty of St Aubyn's prose lies in his choice of the person through whom he narrates each section.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback
Having read and enjoyed his previous trilogy I was really looking forward to Mother's Milk. Sadly, I was very disappointed.

Patrick has now married and has two children. Having been rejected emotionally by his mother (and abused by his father) he now finds himself pushed out by his wife as she seems to devote all her time and energy into being a good mother. His own mother continues to be spiteful and vindictive - she is in the process of handing over her large property in the south of France to a new age charlatan.

Young Robert's childish reflections and observations are very funny but surely not age appropriate? Patrick is very self-centred and is sinking into alcoholism and thinking constantly about how he can have sex with one of their house guests. All very tedious. Patrick is now working as a barrister. I have no idea how he achieved this position considering his drug-fuelled, lazy past.

It is all a bit uneven - though the best bits involved the appalling Seamus and his crackpot hippy theories. He is a very spiritual person but determined to grab the property and evict Patrick and his family as soon as possible.

Some clever writing and some sharp observations but in the end I did not really care enough.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 April 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Following on from the Patrick Melrose trilogy (The Patrick Melrose Trilogy), we meet Patrick again when he is 42. This novel takes place over four summers, from the birth of Patrick's second son, Thomas, to his third year. Although this book can be read alone, it makes more sense if you have read the trilogy first and I would urge you to do so. As much of the first three books were about, either directly or indirectly, Patrick's relationship with his father, we now move on to the non relationship with his mother, Eleanor.

When we first meet Patrick, at the age of five, he is living in France with his abusive and unpleasant father and his alcoholic mother, Eleanor. Having been through drug addiction, Patrick's self destructive behaviour has led him to inherit Eleanor's alcoholism. As always, his sense of injustice is heightened by his parents behaviour - in this case, Eleanor's disinheriting his sons, Robert and Thomas, and leaving his childhood home to a man who is running a self help, new age centre. The family are supposed to be able to use the house for a holiday in the summer, but Patrick's sense of acute anger and misery makes the whole event something of an endurance test and you can easily understand why his wife, Mary, retreats into the more uncomplicated love she shares with Thomas. The finale of these exruciating holiday trips is an ill advised attempt to holiday in the States.

Edward St Aubyn writes such stunning and beautiful prose the book is a delight. You are instantly aware of what each person is thinking and feeling and he writes of what the children are experiencing and thinking with intensity.
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