Thursday, April 14, 2016

At Last

by Edward St. Aubyn

Another funeral book ... I do hope an unfortunate trend is not developing. (I'm doing catch-up reviews out of order, so I haven't actually read these books in proximity to one another.)

Compared to the last two funeral books I wrote up (This Is Where I Leave You and The Mathematician's Shiva), this book features a family that is much more dysfunctional, and not in a wryly funny way. Bits of black humor do appear, however, in the form of social class absurdities and the protagonist's acidic wit and nihilism. But is there hope "at last" for Patrick Melrose, subject of four other novels by this author? Though denied an inheritance by his always-withholding mother's eccentric will, he might, with her death, at long last be released from the poisonous tendrils of his parents' warped relationship.

Edward St. Aubyn is a great writer of psychological fiction that really gets the reader inside the character's head. (Not to be confused with the genre of psychological thrillers.) I think maybe he's more widely read in the UK than the US. I've never met anyone, as far as I know, who's read him, but his books usually have a modest waiting list at the library. Maybe he's a writer's writer, and critically acclaimed, but I guess his type of fiction isn't blockbuster material, no matter how fine it is. (His 2014 book, Lost for Words, is a lighthearted satire and may have wider appeal.)

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