34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you've followed the trilogy, five stars, as a stand-alone, slightly less
In "At Last", Edward St Aubyn returns to the Melrose family, the subject of both "Some Hope" and of his Booker-shortlisted "Mother's Milk". I confess that I have still not got around to reading the first of the trilogy, but loved "Mother's Milk" and found that I wasn't greatly disadvantaged by not having read the previous book. "At Last" could also be read as a...
Published on 27 April 2011 by Ripple
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite up there with Some Hope...
After the Some Hope trilogy and Mother's Milk - which I thought were absolutely brilliant - I was hoping for more of the same from St Aubyn. At Last has some dazzling prose and dialogue, but plotwise it feels much thinner than the earlier Patrick Melrose books. Beautiful as his prose is, there's not much holding this together. It centres on the reflections of friends and...
Published 12 months ago by Christian Hill
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you've followed the trilogy, five stars, as a stand-alone, slightly less,
This review is from: At Last (Hardcover)
In "At Last", Edward St Aubyn returns to the Melrose family, the subject of both "Some Hope" and of his Booker-shortlisted "Mother's Milk". I confess that I have still not got around to reading the first of the trilogy, but loved "Mother's Milk" and found that I wasn't greatly disadvantaged by not having read the previous book. "At Last" could also be read as a stand-alone book, but I wouldn't advise this approach. You will miss out on so much that if you are planning on reading it, you really should read at least "Mother's Milk" first. This isn't much of an inconvenience as it's a terrific book.
I'd also add that if you are thinking of taking this route, you might want to stop reading this review at this point. While it's possible to give a taste of "At Last" without spoilers, the story follows on from "Mother's Milk", so the very set up means that if you don't want to know what happens, you might want to look away now.
St Aubyn's subjects are very much the upper class elite - and their self-centred behaviour as they squander their inheritances. That might not be to everyone's taste as a subject matter and certainly it isn't the life that most of us lead. But he sends them up beautifully and you will soon be laughing and shaking your head at their attitudes. St Aubyn's style is waspishly funny - for me, he is like a slightly more literary, English version of Brett Easton Ellis. There's a similar level of shock and bad behaviour, but he's a more humane writer than Easton Ellis.
OK, so I'm hoping that all those who plan on reading "Mother's Milk" have now left the room so I can reveal that the setting for "At Last" is the funeral of Eleanor - the mother who so infuriated her son Patrick in "Mother's Milk". As various characters, some of whom will be familiar from the earlier books. gather to see her off, most of them are wrapped up in their own thoughts and obsessions. There's the new age advocate Annette, the curmudgeonly family friend Nicholas Pratt and the supremely selfish Aunt Nancy to name but a few. At least Patrick seems to have recovered from some of his former vices, but will Eleanor's passing allow him to finally make peace with the past? St Aubyn is adept at creating a clear picture of these eccentrics with a few deft descriptions.
It's certainly true that most readers won't identify much with St Aubyn's eccentric and wealthy characters and if that means that you will struggle to build an emotional bond to them, then this book may not be for you.
St Aubyn's wickedly funny observations drip off almost every page. He delivers one line observations that would do any stand up comic proud, all wrapped in an intelligent and thoughtful prose style. There are a number of laugh out loud moments as well as some thoughtful investigation of the psychological damage that people inherit from their parents. The whole book is set on one day at the crematorium and the subsequent wake - and St Aubyn is certainly not the first writer to recognise the comic potential of these events which gather disparate people together. All knew Eleanor in different ways, and perhaps Patrick's experience of her is not the whole story.
It's a very satisfying conclusion to "Mother's Milk", but I'm less convinced that it stands as well as a novel in it's own right. It's more the conclusion of a story arc started elsewhere than a satisfying read in itself.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At Last,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars As I lay dead.,
I can't say that I've read better,wittier,more acid prose than St Aubyn produces at times here.There are sections which would have done credit to Evelyn Waugh.The opening chapter is rampantly funny and the tone is sustained virtually throughout the novel.Shockingly,the author slips his foot very occasionally into the sentimental,especially when introducing children into the narrative but,in the main,he sustains both a retrospective on his horrific childhood and a commentary on the antics of a crowd of upper class misfits and acquisitive cultists with admirable verve.
I've read others from this series but apart from having catalogued them under "very good" in my memory and having a vague recollection of St Aubyn's genius for recreating drunkenness on the page,I don't remember that much about them.This,however,didn't spoil my enjoyment of "At Last".The structure of the novel allows St Aubyn to inform the reader fairly fully of the part played by the various characters in his past life and the effect is rather like meeting people at a real funeral.I was pretty sure by the end of the book who everyone was and their significance in Patrick's life.
I also like the concept of a book which pretty well observes the unities of time,action and place.Although much of what "happens" in the book happens in the protagonists' memories,the central action takes place on one day,concerns one event and happens in only acouple of settings.To make a work operating within such a frame and make it consistently compelling and entertaining takes a large amount of literary skill.Only someone with St Aubyn's precise ability to verbalise the internal in such original and elegant prose would be capable of accomplishing the task.
5.0 out of 5 stars Pitch-perfect conclusion to brilliant family saga,
If "At Last" is the conclusion to Edward St Aubyn's Melrose novels, then he has gone out on a high point. That might sound strange, when the book is about death, a funeral, and the awkward transitions we all have to make between living and dying, but it's no exaggeration to say this book is beautifully and thoughtfully done.
St Aubyn seems able to write intelligently and sensitively about a range of topics - and in this latest instalment on the ups and downs of the life and times of Patrick Melrose, captures that sense of nostalgia and looking back with brilliance. He does this not in an overly-sentimental way, but does capture a sense of longing, and a sense of regret that comes with the passing of time, the passing of opportunities. Flashback moments of enjoying the natural world are particularly well done, as are the exchanges between the troubled Patrick and his own children.
All the characters are vibrant, alive people, people you can believe do exist, and this too is a great strength in the book. In the hands of a lesser writer, much of this could have gone horribly wrong, but St Aubyn seems very much like a modern day Waugh or Powell; able to capture the mood of the times and the motivations of his characters with the deft touch of a literary pro. Impressive too, is the depth of storytelling that is achieved without the book weighing in at the size of a housebrick - proof indeed that well-chosen words say things much more effectively than verbose prose.
If this really is the end point of the Melrose saga; then St Aubyn has done a brilliant job in sustaining wonderful storytelling over the span of 5 books. Worth re-reading, these are indeed the modern masterpieces that several critics have claimed they are; such is the intense honesty and emotional power the books generate. Stunning.
5.0 out of 5 stars A revelation!,
I had been considering reading the Patrick Melrose series of 5 novels (of which this is the last) for some time, but was put off by the disturbing subject matter. I don't read "misery memoirs" and this series sounded like one to me. I couldn't see the pleasure in reading about Patrick's miserable life. Now that I have read the 5 novels, and read the last 4 as quickly as I could get my hands on them, I can say that my misgivings were totally misplaced! The story and the treatment were utterly compelling once I'd started the first in the series. St Aubyn is a great stylist, writing sparing prose with fantastic clarity and metaphors. No word is wasted and every phrase is freshly minted, with not a cliche in sight. Add to that, a wonderful humanity and an acidic wit, then you have a winning combination! The characters are mostly awful people and terrible things happen to Patrick, but the tale is told well and entertainingly and the writing is insightful and honest. The long and troubling journey over which Patrick comes to terms with the poisoned legacy of his parents is portrayed convincingly and is very moving.This is a very special series of novels and, although St Aubyn has said that the series is at an end, I hope that he changes his mind, as he did when he said that the first three novels would not be followed by any more.
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as I expected,
I read this a while after I read St Aubyn's preceding Melrose novels - I ought to have reacquainted myself with the first ones but I was in too much of a hurry to read At Last! Most of the characters are horrendous in their own unique ways, with only a few (Patrick, Mary, the children) possessing any sort of empathy or understanding. Without these characters, and the sense of hopefulness that runs through the narrative, the novel would have been too dark and bleak for me - but as it is, it is by far the funniest of the sequence. St Aubyn's wit shines brighter the more his protagonist gains in emotional stability. I must add - though by now it almost goes without saying - that the writing is beautiful and perfectly controlled. The novel is also masterfully constructed, taking place in a single day and occupying the minds of several characters.
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece.,
The final sublime volume of an irresistible and superb series. St Aubyn's writing is shockingly good. I have never read a series of novels that provoked and evoked such an intense emotional response in me. I literally laughed and cried sometimes within the same chapter. The reflections of Patrick Melrose towards the end of this novel are amongst the most profound and humane meditations on the human condition you will ever read and delivered with an exquisite lightness of touch. A major piece of work that should be read as widely as possible. Do yourself a favour: buy the whole series, quit your job and go offline. Truly life affirming…thank you Edward St Aubyn.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, poignant and very, very funny.,
This review is from: At Last (Hardcover)
Edward St Aubyn's writing is simply some of the best around. His Patrick Melrose series forms some of the best writing I think I have ever read. He is, by turns, savagely funny and emotionally deep and this is all done with an elegance that is quite breathtaking.
`At Last' offers something of a conclusion to the series. I would suggest reading the earlier books first, `Some Hope' and `Mother's Milk', though the novel is still an outstanding stand alone read.
St Aubyn offers some fantastic characters, all who spring to life in the mind and become gloriously vivid. His ear for dialogue is superb.
I implore you to read his work. It's brilliant.
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite up there with Some Hope...,
After the Some Hope trilogy and Mother's Milk - which I thought were absolutely brilliant - I was hoping for more of the same from St Aubyn. At Last has some dazzling prose and dialogue, but plotwise it feels much thinner than the earlier Patrick Melrose books. Beautiful as his prose is, there's not much holding this together. It centres on the reflections of friends and relatives at a funeral, but there's nothing really driving the narrative forward. Still think he's a great writer though.
5.0 out of 5 stars The last Melrose Novel,
If you've read the four other books, which I also bought recently from Amazon, then it's a fitting end to the series. Patrick is an unlikeable character but his situation chimes with readers as we all lose people close to us, although he has problems because he despised his parents so much. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and its predecessors, and this has spurred me on to finding other novels by Edward St. Aubyn as his work is so well written I can't wait for his next book!
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At Last by Edward St Aubyn (Hardcover - 6 May 2011)
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