Mothers Milk

Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose series earned him a Booker prize. Upon finishing the series, with Mother’s Milk, it occurs to me he was awarded the prize for his achievement across the books, and not for any particular book. Mother’s Milk is hardly my favorite of these novels, I liked Never Mind the most, but it contains some of the best and worst things that describe the series as a whole.

The good: St. Aubyn’s writing is masterful. I found myself stopping cold in the middle of a paragraph to appreciate a turn of phrase on many occasions. When he is thoughtful and considered in dealing with his characters, he is capable of remarkable insight into emotion, ambition, self-sabotage, social pressure, and many other topics.

The bad: he isn’t a very good story teller. The plot, over the course of these novels, unfolds in a clumsy, cluttered manner where stories step over each other and there is no clear through line. The conceit of containing each novel in a short time period in Melrose’s life works pretty well for Never Mind but in subsequent novels it works less and less.

Overall, the portrait of personal struggle, the fall of meritocracy and elitism and the dangers of amorality when a class of people are so far removed from the reality of everyday life is worth considering. The most compelling parts, for me, were about Melrose’s struggles with mental health, addiction, and family life.