Telling someone how much you loved Edward St. Aubyn’s The Patrick Melrose Novels has become something of a cliché, and lately achieves one of two responses: either the remark, “Oh, people keep recommending them to me,” or, more frequently, “Yes, aren’t they wonderful?” which then begins a long, satisfying, somewhat fetishistic conversation about which one of the novels is your favorite, and why. The four books in this apparently often autobiographical volume, plus the fifth that follows them, called At Last, which I also include in my raving, chronicle the life of one Patrick Melrose from his early childhood, when he was raped and traumatized by his father, and take leaps forward through heroin addiction, dinner with a perfectly horrible Princess Margaret, the exhaustions and intrigues of fatherhood, and the protracted demise of a narcissistic and tragic mother. At Last has frequently been read as a stand-alone, and I’ve heard of readers being left a little bewildered or disappointed by it, making me long to direct them to go back and start with the first book and keep going. And while if I did that I know I would sound a bit like Ferran Adria, the chef of El Bulli, instructing diners exactly how to drink some fantastical duet of elixirs that perhaps rely on nitrous oxide and animal testicle passed through a sieve (“One after the other, rapidly, and straight down!”) I also know that the pleasures of following these orders would certainly be worth it.
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