Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 50% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn more Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars14
4.1 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback|Change
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 14 March 2006
Tastes differ, and for me it's no concern that the characters are mostly awful when the writing - and that's what it's all about, after all - is as good as this:
"She imagined vodka poured over ice and all the cubes that had been frosted turning clear and collapsing in the glass and the ice cracking, like a spine in the hands of a confident osteopath. All the sticky, awkward cubes of ice floating together, tinkling, their frost thrown off to the side of the glass, and the vodka cold and unctuous in her mouth."
Volume one of the trilogy - Never Mind - tells the story simply of a gathering at the house, in France, of an upper-class English couple, David and Eleanor Melrose. Eleanor, an alcoholic, is wealthy by birth and David married her for her money, though that's the least of his vices. He's an out-and-out villain, whether making his wife eat her dinner from the floor like a dog, or exerting power over his five-year-old son Patrick in the most disturbing ways. Their guests are not much better, and when the book ended I was both glad to see the back of such a bunch of upsetting misfits, and sorry to finish such a beautifully-written performance in prose. Even in the depths of depravity St. Aubyn is a pleasure to read, his writing full of life and the sort of subdued wit you know you will laugh at much more the second time around.
A word, by the way, about the title of the three volumes. I just love them. Never Mind. Bad News. Some Hope. Their stark, bare, blankness mixed with tiny ambiguities - like the names of exhibits at a modish art exhibition - makes me chuckle just to look at them. Never Mind sums up the coolly distant narrative voice, glossing over the horrors which David Melrose inflicts on his 'loved' ones. Bad News speaks literally of the central piece of information in the second book - that David Melrose has died - but ironically, because for his son Patrick, now 22 years old, it is very good news indeed. It is also reflective of Patrick himself, walking bad news if ever there was, a hopelessly out-of-control drug addict who spends the two days that the book covers, in New York to make arrangements after his father's death, in a stew of hallucinations and desperate fix-addiction. But as a portrait of addiction it's as laugh-out-loud funny as it is gripping.
Some Hope, finally - the third volume, as well as the title Picador have given to the overall series for this reissue - is a deliciously simple but subtle double-entendre, a rolled-eyes dismissal of the possibility of anything good coming from the contents of Never Mind and Bad News - but also a good-hearted acknowledgement of the existence of that possibility, however small. Not 'very much hope', then, but 'some hope' nonetheless. Just wonderful. It's a shame then that in the new Picador omnibus edition, these superb, perfect titles are reduced mostly to the status of chapter headings.
Anyway. Whereas Bad News gives us mostly the world from the eyes of Patrick Melrose, Some Hope returns to the multiple voices of Never Mind. This seems like a retreat, and Some Hope is at its strongest when in Patrick's mind (now thirty, and in recovery from his drug use), and at other times seems winsome and cutely aphoristic, which over time - though it's only 150 pages - can get irritating, just the way page after page of Oscar Wilde's paradoxes can. One quip goes a mightly long way. Nonetheless, the portrait of Princess Margaret is a triumph, and the whole trilogy has a cumulative power that takes it to the highest echelons of modern English writing. And the Best News is that the stand-alone sequel, Mother's Milk, is even better.
0Comment|31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 1 February 2007
SOME HOPE is made up of three novellas, each featuring the experiences of Patrick Melrose during a 24-hour (±) ordeal. In each, St. Aubyn explores Patrick's relationship with David Melrose, his snobby, controlling, and repellent father.

The first novella, NEVER MIND, shows Patrick as a wee boy as he suffers loneliness, neglect, and physical abuse. The second, BAD NEWS, follows Patrick in his early twenties on a hilarious and Herculean drug binge in New York City. The third, SOME HOPE, shows Patrick near thirty and free of addictions. At a party honoring Princess Margaret, he gets a stronger grip on his monstrous father's legacy and the allure of his snobbish world.

The writing throughout these three novellas is absolutely sensational. If a good writer allows a reader to experience the life, aspirations, and psychology of his/her characters, St. Aubyn is a GREAT writer in this book. To a degree, this is due to his breathtaking metaphors and similes, which go beyond deft phrases to actually capture and define a moment or effect. Here are four that I like, two from BAD NEWS and two from SOME HOPE.

o The heroin followed in a soft rain of felt hammers playing up his spine and rumbling into his skull.

o Patrick sprung up the steps of the Key Club with unaccustomed eagerness, his nerves squirming like a bed of maggots whose protective stone has been flicked aside.

o ...a couple of years earlier, he had started to realize what it must be like to be lucid all the time, an unpunctuated stretch of consciousness, a white tunnel, hollow and dim, like a bone with the marrow sucked out.

o The two men fell silent and stared at the throng that struggled... with the same frantic but restricted motion of bacteria multiplying under microscope.

This book is highly recommended. But I quibble on one point: Cabbies traveling from Kennedy Airport don't use the Williamsburg Bridge and The Avenue of the Americas to reach the Pierre. Instead, they take the Triborough Bridge and FDR Drive. Otherwise, fantastic!
22 comments|41 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 October 2012
Edward St Aubyn is a master of prose, and the Some Hope trilogy represents a considerable achievement. There is a seemingly effortless elegance to his writing, the microscopic eye for detail and social nuance deftly employed throughout. The dialogue is witty and bitingly concise, his mode of cynicism illuminating and agreeable, rid of empty invective. It is an inimitable pose and one of icy detachment, but one that doesn't forestall an empathetic treatment of his characters. But what of St Aubyn's world?

The trilogy is comprised of the slim novels Never Mind, Bad News, and Some Hope. Although these titles may seem blunt, unappealing and boring, they conceal some truly horrific material. Primarily, the three works follow the life of Patrick Melrose, the only son of an estranged and dysfunctional married couple, David and Eleanor. Born into a moribund upper-class, Patrick witnesses the cruelty and snobbery that saturates his parents' interactions with the world, their many manias and phobias, their underlying insentience. That the reader gains this much knowledge is not strictly down to Patrick, although he seems strangely precocious in his sentimental education; it is due, rather, to St Aubyn's roaming focalisation, an omniscience that happily skips from one character to the next, exposing each one's prejudices to the disturbed and, when contrasted with the lordly class depicted, distinctly proletarian reader.

The three novels, then, document Patrick's tumultuous route into adulthood. In Never Mind, he is a lonely five-year old; Bad News, a decadent and junky twenty-two; Some Hope, a confused and clean thirty. The backgrounds to Patrick's various escapades are peopled with a synthesis of the lofty and the low. Each, however, is democratically exposed to St Aubyn's caustic treatment: no one is safe. Nonetheless, such merciless attacks would grind the reader down if they weren't so funny. But they are. And although the aristocracy is painted as vapid and fatuous (especially the monstrous Princess Margaret), their interweaving intrigues make a good sideshow to the development of Patrick, the one character who seems adaptable to change.

But Patrick cannot escape the influence of his father, nor help replicating his faults. The caustic putdowns, the Wildean badinage, the engulfing solipsism, all these traits are undeniably hereditary. But the trilogy ends on a positive note, and it seems there is some hope for Patrick. But just how much remains to be seen.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 19 May 2011
An utterly brilliant novel charting the appalling behaviour of the English upper classes. This may sound narrow but it is not. It's about family breakdown and the vicious ennui peculiar to the entitled. The damage handed down to Patrick Melrose by his parents, from five year old to early thirties, is forensically analysed, quite terrifying, and believe it or not, incredibly funny in places. He is the kind of author you constantly want to stop reading to write down every other sentence so you'll never forget an apposite observation or a metaphor as precise as a knife blade. He should be much more widely read. His latest At Last is also a gem.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 4 June 2012
Take care if you buy this title. Rather confusingly, the publishers use the same title for the second Melrose novel AND the compendium of the first THREE Melrose novels,which includes Some Hope! As there is only a pound or so difference between the 2 publications, it is clearly nonsense to buy only the second Melrose title. If all this appears confusing, it certainly confused the supplier 'aphrohead books', from whom I bought the book on the Amazon website. I thought I was buying the trilogy, but they sent Book 2 only. Having returned it 3 weeks ago, I am still trying to get my money back. I shall not be using 'aphrohead' again!
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 June 2011
just caught up with this trilogy, but what a combination of stunning dialogue and observational comedy allied to dramatic content! some of the subject matter is pretty grim and the rather affected way in which parts are treated may move or grate, but each is a brilliant read, which encourages downing in one or more gulps especially given the brief timespans of each of the individual parts of the trilogy - and an appetite for further instalments
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 16 May 2011
This is a savage portrayal of an abusive childhood, addiction and recovery. The writing is powerful and the description vivid - perhaps a little too vivid in the portrayals of drug abuse. However none of the characters are very likeable, which is the major drawback of the novel - sadly I ended up not really caring one way or the other whether these spoilt, rich kids came good or not.

A recommended read, but not for the faint-hearted.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 4 August 2007
A patient bought me this book through Amazon and gave it to me to read as I only had the last of the Trilogy and the two eairler books were out of print. I loved it. Unfortnuately, the author's experiences are so typical of those of many poeple who end up as addicts, with the only difference being that of social class. The writing is spare and the description of the downward descent so vivid, that the life in recovery is so illuminating. I think that it was right not to include the rehab and it shows that it takes time, with a clear head, to achieve acceptance, forgivness and mental peace. MWD Rowlands
0Comment|9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 14 July 2011
I think if a novel is going to have such graphic and shocking scenes as this one has (I won't spoil it for you) then there ought to be some hint that the reader is going to be subjected to that on the cover. Lets put it this way; this would have an 18 rating if it were a film. I got part way through and was absolutely traumatised by what I read. He's a powerful writer and really gets under your skin, which makes the trauma even worse. The characters he creates are very believable to the point where they become almost real. I thought the writing was patchy, as though he had got slightly bored about a third of the way through, but then it picked up again. I also think that it's not a very realistic portrayal of the nature of childhood abuse and recovery. I think if you're going to write about such a touchy subject you really should speak with accuracy and authority on it. By the end I was kind of reminded of Jilly Cooper's books in the way that it portrayed the upper classes, and I found that very cliched. People are no more or less nice because they are from privileged backgrounds, and some rich people are very positive while others are more like the people in this book. It's an easy punt to have a go at the 'in crowd', but in my mind it detracts from the writer's obvious talent for psychological insight and believable writing.
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 10 July 2014
Bought as a present.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.