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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wealth and privilege squandered - The Patrick Melrose series

The 5th and final volume of Edward St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose series, At Last, picks up more or less where the others left off: we're, I don't know, maybe 5 years later in Patrick's life, he's mid-40s, and it opens at his mother's funeral - obviously recalling his father's funeral, the subject of volume 2; both parents are hateful creatures, the father in particular, and this volume dwells on the 1001 ways Patrick can and should and does hate his mother. Shall we list them? First of all, as we learn from one of the legion of cynics who populate these novels, she descended from a line of American (horrors!) business financiers and her parents and aunts had tremendous wealth that they used for nothing but their own cybarritic (sp?) pleasure and for asserting class power, in other words, typical of most of the characters in this series of novels. Patrick in particular is angry at his mother for willing all of her property to a spiritualist charlatan - but we have to wonder whether Patrick would have done anything with an inheritance other than squander the money on drugs and alcohol. When wed last seen Patrick he was making strides toward recovery but somewhere between volumes 4 and 5 he's had another falling off: we learn that he has been depressed and suicidal, hospitalized for some time - time enough for him to condescendingly recollect the others in his recovery group and to develop some sort of fantasy crush on a much younger and possibly even more depressed fellow patient (Becky). What's happened, by the way, to his wife and children? They seem as this volume opens to have been tossed aside, like trash flipped from the window of a moving car. This is so odd - there are huge lacunae between the volumes of this series, reminding me in a way of Powell's Dance to the Music of Time, which I'm concurrently reading and which also over 11 volumes barely mentions the narrators wife and children. How odd; how English. In any event, this novel, from the first 50 pp or so, does not disappoint, depending on your appetite for acidic wit, but it feels as if it will be a descent even deeper into darkness, with no redemption. Are there any good characters? Do these people do anything useful, for themselves or their society, with the incredible wealth and privilege that has been handed to them at birth?

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