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on 6 May 2012
This is the first Edward St Aubyn book I've read, and I could barely put it down; I read it through in two sittings (although it has to be said that its comparatively short.) Its superbly well-written, and throughly enjoyable (and wittily funny at bits) yet there is barely a likeable character in the book. I can hardly wait to read the next book in the "Patrick Melrose" series - which promises to be as entertaining as "Dance to the Music of Time". This first book is all about the characters; not a lot happens yet he still manages to keep you on the edge of your seat. Both of Patrick's parents are so awful (in very different ways) that I can't wait to see how he developes.Vile though most of them are, the characters are highly articulate and the language of the book is a joy. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 24 July 2012
Is David Melrose the most obnoxious character in fiction? If not, then he must be in the top ten. Melrose is the father of Patrick, the subject of five of St Aubin's novels, novels which are semi autobiographical. Arrogant, amoral, controlling he has an unaccountable hold over his wife and friends. Nor is Melrose alone in his obnoxiousness. The novel is set over the course of a day in which two other couples will attend a dinner party with Melrose and his rich, alcoholic wife and none of them are particularly pleasing.

When I started this book I wondered whether I would be able to finish it as I found the characters (apart from Patrick) so horrible. If they weren't snobbish and arrogant they were foolish, vain and empty headed. Their milieu is not one with which I am familiar as (like most people) I don't spend my time mixing with minor aristocracy and their pursuits seemed vacuous to me. But I persevered and I'm glad I did. This is a compelling novel, which is beautifully written and in spite of my initial reservations I found that I really wanted to find out what happens next.

Once again, Kindle and Amazon's daily deal have come up trumps and I have discovered an amazing writer who was previously unknown to me. A masterpiece of writing.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 June 2014
In this first novel in the “Melrose” series, we are introduced to Patrick, the five-year-old son of the charismatic but brutal David Melrose. Such is the narrator’s power that I felt the urge to tear through the page to save this poor little boy from the daily torture and abuse meted out to him by a man who had probably been damaged in the same way and which Patrick himself seems at risk of inflicting on his own children in due course.

Although desirable to read the five Melrose novels in order, this is not strictly necessary, as I came to them through “At Last" and “Mother’s Milk”. Since I did not realise they are heavily autobiographical, I rejected them at first for the author’s obsession with the idle and dysfunctional rich, wishing he would apply his striking talent to more worthy topics. The very day I read in “Never Mind” the shocking scene in which David Melrose rapes his own son, I saw Edward St Aubyn being interviewed on the TV by John Mullan, and realised that these books have been a form of carthasis for him, to some extent saving his sanity: he was Patrick. This has entirely altered my view. I note that some reviewers condemn the "shock factor" of the rape scene, perhaps unaware that something like it really happened to the author, traumatising until he could find some outlet through writing about it.

The author’s capacity to put thoughts into words with such apparent ease, bending them to fit the most complex thought and make it clear is remarkable. What is at times profoundly sad is made bearable by his razor-sharp and caustic wit. I like the brevity of the book which ends unexpectedly, leaving you wanting more of the addictive prose. On reflection, it concludes with an important insight, comparing the dreams of David and his son.

It may be a while before I can face reading the remainder of the series, because of the sense of pointless cruelty and tragic self-destruction which it engenders. Perhaps the first book, in its novelty, will prove the best, but I recommend this partly for the quality of the writing and partly because to survive such ill-treatment and put it to artistic use merits some kind of recognition. Ironically, as the author turns his skill to less harrowing and personal subjects, he may lose some of his unique edge.

St Aubyn may feel sore over missing the Man Booker Prize for "Mother's Milk". I would argue that any prize should be awarded for the whole series. I also note the plan to make the series into a film, which will suffer from the loss of the searing and brilliant prose.
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on 16 October 2014
One imagines that purchasers of this book will have a good idea about its emotionally painful content. That, however, would be to put it mildly. Don't make the mistake (as I did) of reading it on a train unless you're okay about weeping in front of startled commuters. You'll want to enter the book and rescue the poor little blighter.

Unlike Alan Hollinghurst's work, with which comparisons are often drawn, it's beautifully written but not "beautifully written". That's a good thing - for this reader, at least.

If I have one criticism it's that the thoughts of the child often seem to be more the thoughts of the author as a man.

I've yet to decide whether to read the whole "Patrick Melrose" cycle. The suffering of the boy is so painful and the adults, almost without exception, are monsters. I've had the misfortune to meet such creatures from time to time. You want to take a long, hot shower after being in their company. Poor little Patrick doesn't have that luxury and I'm not sure I have the courage to go in again, when I know I can't pick him up and run away.
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on 4 March 2016
I didn't enjoy this book as much as the reviews indicated that I might. Perhaps I was expecting it to be something other than it was. I have given it two stars because I did read on and finish the book and did find some aspects of it well written. But, for me, it didn't seem to go anywhere and the content was depressing and occasionally seemed to revel in its nastiness. It is possibly just paving the way for the later novels and perhaps they are less wallowing - half of me wants to read one to see, but the other half doesn't want to risk it after having been left with a bitter aftertaste from the first. But all the positive reviews from other people do make me wonder whether I am missing something.
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on 17 September 2012
A truly horrible cast of characters make their appearance in this first of five novels that trace the life journey of Patrick Melrose.

Here we are introduced to Patrick as a scared and lonely five year old trying desperately to stay out of the way of his sadistic father David, while at the same time desperately seeking attention from his mother, who is herself too busy seeking refuge from the horrors of her husband by using a cocktail of alcohol and prescription medication.

The action in this slim, first novel centres on a single weekend in the family's Provence home, and the arrival of guests equally odious and disfunctional as the Melrose's themselves. The snivelling social climbing of the majority of these guests and the vicious and malicious conversational repartee to outdo others and impress David Melrose is beyond me. David who had to marry for money, who is the product of a dysfunctional upbringing himself and a failed doctor, seems to command respect from these acolytes, but I expect its more respect from fear of not towing his line than anything else!

I AM interested to learn if Patrick manages to overcome this awful introduction to life and so will probably read the other novels in the series, especially if I can get them at a reduced price as I did with this one.. it being a Kindle Daily Deal purchase for me.
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on 10 April 2018
St Aubyn cuts down to the bone, saws it open and dissects the marrow of his characters. I don't feel like I have ever read anything quite like it where morally repugnant characters are drawn in such a deft, merciless and somehow still empathetic way. Where you can't help but hate them while still recognising their humanity. I feel like this is a book I will be thinking about for a long time.
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on 23 March 2015
St. Aubyn is a superb, elegant prose writer - one of those writers indeed whose books, though relatively short, take a disproportionate time to read as one savours each perfectly weighted sentence - and the story of Patrick Melrose as it unfolds over the - now four - series of books is immaculately told and psychologically very astute, as we see Patrick's equally damaged father proceed to wreak havoc on his hapless son who then struggles to achieve adulthood or adult relationships. Original sin indeed. Oh, the books are also mordantly funny.
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on 21 May 2014
although this is well written and conveys a haunting picture of a little boy abandoned amidst the mostly ghastly characters who inhabit his world and the book Ultimately, this makes it very difficult to recommend wholeheartedly. It is hard to fully enjoy a work when there is not a single likeable person in the book and ultimately, I did not care about any of it to read the next two books in the trilogy which is unusual for me not to carry on with the series - Clever and a bit facetious with not enough humour or poignancy to leaven the dense mixture.
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on 6 March 2014
Very readable from the first paragraph. Well written, darkly humorous (with the emphasis on darkly), I read most of this on a journey to/from London (approx. 5 hours)

I have to say, I do love to read about dysfunctional families (they make mine look 'normal') and I'm aware some folk find that sort of thing too close to home. But if you take pleasure in watching things fall apart from the sidelines and enjoy British idiosycrasies, please give 'Never Mind' a go. I'm looking forward to tucking into the next in the series very much indeed.
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