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At Last by Edward St. Aubyn

At Last (2012)

by Edward St. Aubyn

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The last of the Patrick Melrose novels, in which we find our hero at his mother's funeral. Finally. He's come through some more self inflicted damage, this time alcohol related, and spent a while in rehab. We see the action from the point of view of various characters and there's more action than you'd expect at a funeral, but it's all satisfying and a lot of it's funny. Underlying it all is seems to be the point that a parent's cruelty, or love, is the thing that lasts forever. ( )
  piemouth | Mar 29, 2016 |
Patrick's mother has finally died and, at the funeral, he struggles to make sense of all his conflicting emotions. We also get some glimpse into the internal ramblings of others at the funeral service. St. Aubyn seems to have some inkling of the redemptive power implicit in these final goodbyes. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
The five Patrick Melrose Novels are semi-autobiographical works beginning with Never Mind (1992) and ending with At Last (2012). I read the first four back-to-back and was impressed, but overwhelmed by some of the themes. It’s taken me two years to get to At Last, but I’m glad I did.

The entire novel takes place at Patrick’s mother’s funeral. Patrick abdicated planning the service to his wife Mary, and her inspired choices for readings and music paint a portrait of the woman, and prompt silent reflection among those in attendance. The service is also a vehicle for St Aubyn to take shots at those with inherited wealth, and the pain they inflict on others in the name of either preserving or burning through their inheritance.

For those meeting Patrick Melrose for the first time, St Aubyn takes care to provide just enough context by referencing major events in Patrick’s life which are central to the previous novels. This means you aren’t required to read all of the earlier books, but I think At Last is a richer experience for those who have. ( )
  lauralkeet | Jan 28, 2015 |
This book was at least as good as those that preceded it in the Patrick Melrose series. It had the same sparkling conversation and wit, the same sympathy for the characters especially the children, while wrapping up a final chapter in Patrick's journey. I loved how it ended on a note of positive possibility and I would love to know what happens next. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Jul 1, 2014 |
More mixed feelings here. This book mostly felt like a falling off, in intensity and interest, to the four previous ones, and I can't imagine how it would read without them as background -- arch, smart but soulless, perhaps, more or less as it read anyway but without the resonance the other books give to its particular moments. The ending is better than the novel deserves, but not (maybe) better than the series as a whole deserves...something I'll keep thinking about.
  rmaitzen | Feb 7, 2014 |
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'Surprised to see me?' said Nicholas Pratt, planting his walking stick on the crematorium carpet and fixing Patrick with a look of slightly aimless defiance, a habit no longer useful but too late to change.
As far as Patrick was concerned, the past was a corpse waiting to be cremated, and although his wish was about to be granted in the most literal fashion, in a furnace only a few yards from where he was standing, another kind of fire was needed to incinerate the attitudes which haunted Nancy; the psychological impact of inherited wealth, the raging desire to get rid of it and the raging desire to hang on to it; the demoralizing effect of already having what almost everyone else was sacrificing their precious lives to acquire; the more or less secret superiority and the more or less secret shame of being rich, generating their characteristic disguises; the philanthropy solution, the alcoholic solution, the mask of eccentricity, the search for salvation in perfect taste; the defeated, the idle, and the frivolous and their opponents, the standard-bearers, all living in a world that the dense glitter of alternatives made it hard for love and work to penetrate.
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For Patrick Melrose, ‘family’ is more than a double-edged sword. As friends, relations and foes trickle in to pay final respects to his mother, Eleanor – an heiress who forsook the grandeur of her upbringing for ‘good works’, freely bestowed upon everyone but her own child – Patrick finds that his transition to orphanhood isn’t necessarily the liberation he had so long imagined.

Yet as the service ends and the family gather for a final party, as conversations are overheard, danced around and concertedly avoided, amidst the social niceties and the social horrors, the calms and the rapids, Patrick begins to sense a new current. And at the end of the day, alone in his rooftop bedsit, it seems to promise some form of safety, at last.

One of the most powerful reflections on pain and acceptance, and the treacheries of family, ever written, At Last is the brilliant culmination of the Melrose books. It is a masterpiece of glittering dark comedy and profound emotional truth.
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Friends, relatives, and foes trickle in to pay final respects to Patrick's mother, Eleanor. An American heiress, Eleanor married into the British aristocracy, giving up the grandeur of her upbringing for "good works" freely bestowed on everyone but her own son, who finds himself questioning whether his transition to a life without parents will indeed be the liberation he had so long imagined.… (more)

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