Patrick Melrose

The funny thing about contemporary (and even some classical) literature is that it tends to be best know in the country of origin. I read a note online yesterday from an avid reader in Great Britain who confessed to never having read William Faulkner but was blown away by the intensity of Faulkner’s prose in one of his short works. Well, turn about is fair play:  until a few weeks back I had never heard of Edward St. Aubyn but after reading his novel Never Mind I am intending to read all of his novels, especially The Patrick Melrose series.

Perhaps you haven’t been acquainted with St. Aubyn. One of the best biographical pieces I found on the internet was from the write-up of a German literary conference. This is just the first paragraph:

St. AubynEdward St Aubyn was born in Cornwall in 1960 and grew up in England and the South of France. His family is of noble descent and he had a privileged, but troubled, upbringing. He attended the prestigious Westminster School and went on to study English at the University of Oxford. In 1992 he published the first two books of his trilogy, which follows the life of Patrick Melrose, his literary alter-ego. The unforgiving portrayal of the social class to which he belongs and the openly autobiographical background of the books were so controversial that the literary value and quality of the works were not immediately recognised. After his sixth novel was nominated for the Booker Prize and he was awarded the French Prix Fémina for a Foreign Novel following a French translation, many of his works were also translated into German, Italian and Spanish.

I found the first Melrose novel fascinating, but then, I prefer social drama to action and adventure (thus my adoration for A Dance to the Music of Time). There was just enough sordidness to make it controversial and a large measure of witty banter to raise a smile (or a scowl).

Here is St. Aubyn’s bibliography to date:

First, the Patrick Melrose series:

      • Never Mind
      • Bad News
      • Some Hope
      • Mother’s Milk
      • At Last

And two unaligned works of fiction:

      • On The Edge
      • A Clue to the Exit.

4 thoughts on “Patrick Melrose

  1. Really, hadn’t heard of Faulkner? That feels like some of that charming lampooning of Americans that Brits so enjoy. Anyway, thanks for the recommendation on St. Aubyn. I’ll head to the library and check him out.

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    1. Not hadn’t heard of, just hadn’t read. Contrary to the concept of American Exceptionalism, American literature is not the pinnacle of the art for the world to admire. It is interesting, however, in the case of Faulkner there are many Americans who not only haven’t read his novels but are actually afraid of the author’s reputation.

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      1. Right, you did say hadn’t read. My error. Blinded by my own sense of exceptionalism. Though you did say he “confessed” to it. The implcation being that he ought to have?

        I think you’re right though the attitudes of many Americans toward Faulkner’s work.

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  2. Oh thank you for this post! I’ve had Edward St. Aubyn on my wish list for about a year. Sounds like I’d better get going. (Another one for the upcoming year goal list.)

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