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The Patrick Melrose Trilogy (original 1998; edition 1998)

by Edward St.Aubyn

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144None82,862 (4.26)7
Member:ucla70
Title:The Patrick Melrose Trilogy
Authors:Edward St.Aubyn
Info:Minerva (1998), Paperback, 560 pages
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Some Hope: A Trilogy by Edward St. Aubyn (1998)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
For the first 19 pages, I was disgusted: would this turn out to be the usual, over-descriptive, self-pitying mush? For God's sake, why do you need to say 'black and white magpie'? What the heck other colour magpies are there? Rage ensued.
The next day, I read through the rest of 'Never Mind,' the first novel, straight. It whupped me. Great stuff- fantastic characters, intelligent themes, beautiful writing, funny and emotionally stunning.
So I got to work on 'Bad News,' which was slightly above-par drug-lit. Better written than most of the "and then I tipped a few grains of smack into the spoon which was already black from over-use and applied the flame and watched as it bubbled and pulled back the syringe and plunged it into my arm but because I'm such a hardcore drug user I can't find my veins so I ruined my hit and..." crap, but honestly? Pretty weak compared to 'Never Mind.'
And 'Some Hope,' the final novel, pretty much split the difference. It's post drugs, thank the gods, so we don't have minute descriptions of works; it's also not as concentrated as 'Never Mind.'

The main thing is, St Aubyn writes very well, and manages to combine what is essentially a story of redemption with the kind of charming cynicism that's usually taken to undermine redemption stories. He's very clever; you could write a dissertation, well, maybe a Master's thesis, on this book alone. It's not flawless, but in a world of tentative, day-in-the-life-of realism and lame brained 'experiment' or quirk, you're better off reading this than most things. Wilde James Amis is a nice equation, especially since this book manages to destroy any urge you might have towards nostalgia or even respect for aristocracy. Princess Margaret gets a particularly violent mocking. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
The novels in Edward St. Aubyn's five part Patrick Melrose series are heavily based on St. Aubyn's life, growing up in a highly dysfunctional British upper middle class family with a cruel abusive father and an unprotective substance abusing mother. As he said in a recent article in The Guardian, "The whole Melrose series is an attempt to tell the truth, and is based on the idea that there is some salutary or liberating power in telling the truth. So it would have been quite tiresome to lie about it after having done it. But I can still say what I think is true – that I have spent 22 years trying to transform painful lived experience into what I hope is pleasurable reading experience. The intention was to make a work of art rather than a confession."

Some Hope includes the first three Patrick Melrose novels, which were initally published as The Patrick Melrose Trilogy in a single volume by Vintage in 1998. This version of the trilogy was released by Picador in 2006. The fourth novel, Mother's Milk, was shortlisted for the 2006 Booker Prize, and At Last, the final book in the series, was published in 2011.

St. Aubyn was born in 1960, and he was repeatedly sodomized by his father between the ages of five and eight, as Patrick Melrose was in the first novel of the series, Never Mind. In it, St. Aubyn portrays Patrick's parents, David and Eleanor. David is a jack of several trades but a master of none, as he briefly practiced as a physician and as a pianist, both under the withering opposition of his own father, who all but disinherited him upon his death. David's upper middle class upbringing leads him to look at nearly everyone with extreme disdain, including his "friends" and those who share his values, and his frustration with his failed life is expressed toward them and especially Eleanor, his well to do American wife, and Patrick, his only son. Eleanor is able to escape David by sleeping in a separate room, driving away in her car, which no one else is allowed to command, and her frequent use of drugs and alcohol. Patrick, however, suffers the full brunt of his father's anger, as he tortures and verbally belittles him in order to make him a tough and independent young man. Other characters are introduced in the novel, who will appear in the subsequent two novels, most notably Nicholas Pratt, who is as close to David as anyone and finds him both admirable for his firmly held opinions and loyalty to British tradition, and misanthropic, for his virulent hatred of everyone, including himself. These characters meet for dinner at the Melrose house in a French country town populated by like minded Britons, as Nicholas and his latest girlfriend come there for a brief visit. The conversation is witty and acerbic, with wicked humor interspersed between the sharp barbs fired by these supposed friends.

The trauma of his childhood led St. Aubyn to become addicted to heroin between the ages of 16 and 28. In Bad News, the second novel, Patrick Melrose, now aged 22, travels to New York City for a brief visit to claim his father's body, after he died suddenly there. Patrick's crippling and all encompassing addiction to heroin, cocaine and a bevy of other medications is the main theme of the novel, and this reader was amazed by the massive amount of drugs that Patrick consumed, the use of one drug to counteract the effects of another, and the utter depravity that he had fallen into. The account comes across as authentic, and it was obvious to me that St. Aubyn had lived through or witnessed events such as these as a young adult. Included in this novel are tedious dialogues with several Britons who mourn David's death, while they engage in maudlin admiration for him, their dying breed, and their own trivial accomplishments and acquisitions.

In the final novel, Some Hope, Patrick is now 30 years old and he has recently stopped using drugs, replacing them with frequent meaningless sexual encounters and alcohol, while he wallows in self pity and ennui. He is financially independent and abhors the thought of work. He receives an invitation from Nicholas Pratt to attend a lavish party in honor of Princess Margaret in the English countryside, which is meant to ensure his connection with the right people. Characters from both previous novels appear in this one, and the dinner is highlighted by a delightfully amusing encounter between Princess Margaret and the French ambassador.

The strength of these three novels is St. Aubyn's gifted writing and dialogue, as he repeatedly skewers the British upper middle class, portraying them as vacuous, utterly useless and despicable excuses for human beings. His description of a drug fueled weekend in Bad News is powerful and disturbing, and that novel should be required reading for all teenagers or any adult who is thinking of using illegal drugs. Many of the characters are so unlikable that I could barely stand to spend any time with them, which is the main reason I only gave the trilogy four stars overall. However, this trilogy was an excellent read, which I would highly recommend. ( )
8 vote kidzdoc | May 11, 2013 |
Totally crazy about this so far. ( )
  Lacy.Simons | Apr 3, 2013 |
Some Hope was originally published as three novellas, each one a snapshot of a period in the life of Patrick Melrose. In the first, Never Mind, Patrick is a young boy and the focus of the story is on his monstrous father; in the second, Bad News, that father has just died and Patrick is in his early twenties; and in the third, also called Some Hope, Patrick is coming up to thirty and is also, perhaps, coming to terms with the difficulties of his early childhood.

The story is a bit of a triptych, with books one and three both structured around a social occasion and sharing similar themes (gossip, bitchiness, social power dynamics), while book two focuses much more on Patrick himself and what's going on inside his head.

In the first few pages of the first book, as we are being introduced to the unhappy marriage of Patrick's parents, the following lines appear:

When she had met David, she thought that he was the first person who really understood her. Now he was the last person she would go to for understanding. it was hard to explain this change and she tried to resist the temptation of thinking that he had been waiting all along for her money to subsidize his fantasies of how he deserved to live. Perhaps, on the contrary, it was her money that had cheapened him. He had stopped his medical practice soon after their marriage. At the beginning, there had been talk of using some of her money to start a home for alcoholics. In a sense they had succeeded.

That last sentence is a perfect example of the way that this book makes you gasp - at once with horror and with admiration for the subtlety of the writing. On the following page - after Patrick's mother shakes off her hangover jitters with a handful of uppers and downers ("the yellow pills for keeping her alert and the white ones for taking away the dread and panic that alertness brought with it"), we see her "recognizing herself in the mirror for the first time that day". At this point I knew that it would be a gruelling but breathtaking read, and that's what it turned out to be.

There were times when I felt the book was suffering from diminishing returns. In particular, much of it is a vicious skewering of the British upper classes, and at moments I felt I just couldn't be bothered to be plunged back into the obnoxious idiocy of this snobbish world. But then the quality of the writing would make me smile - we are introduced to one character like this:

Kitty Harrow, at home in the country, lay in bed propped up by a multitude of pillows, her King Charles spaniels hidden in the troughs of her undulating bedspread, and a ravaged breakfast tray abandoned beside her like an exhausted lover.

Within this context, we have the story of Patrick himself - sometimes awful, sometimes funny, sometimes infuriating, sometimes even moving. I don't want to talk too much about what happens to avoid spoilers. But I found myself stretched in all sorts of different ways while reading this. Very good. ( )
2 vote wandering_star | Feb 19, 2013 |
This trilogy of novellas presents the Melrose family in which David Melrose and his son Patrick play leading roles. It is the story of a man’s abusive father and the effects of a decadent upper class. Patrick Melrose, as a boy in “Never Mind” experiences the attention of his sadistic father David, who makes his wife eat like a dog just to verify his power, and holds his son up by the ears to teach him to make important decisions for himself. In fact, one of David's personal mottoes is " to break even the smallest rules." David certainly is unconcerned with society's rules when meting out his ritual humiliations. Patrick is on the receiving end of much of this behavior as he thinks to himself, “He did not know who this man was, it could not be his father who was crushing him like this.”
The second volume, “Bad News”, finds an older Patrick with residual personal issues, not the least of which is a drug addiction, spending at least $5K/week on heroine or cocaine: “How could he ever hope to give up drugs? They filled him with such intense emotion.” Also, father David has just died. We follow Patrick as he visits the funeral home abroad to gloat over the body, then allows himself to indulge in the best smack in the world, fending off the voices that are the evidence of his trauma: “Every thought or hint of a thought took on a personality stronger than his own.” Patrick heads back to England, after bemoaning his own lot in life with bon mots like: " God, imagine having and opposite number instead of always being one's own opposite number". He seems to have missed out on experiencing either satisfying spite or legitimate grief. Finally, in “Some Hope,” set eight years later, Patrick has dropped the drugs but is still haunted by the memory of his father. His life is not improving enough to convince you, dear reader, that he has any more than some hope -- and little at that. St. Aubyn has a wonderful style filled with intelligent metaphors and a lucid understanding of British upper-class life. The Trilogy reminded me a bit of Evelyn Waugh without the brightness or sparkle. ( )
  jwhenderson | Feb 13, 2012 |
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At half past seven in the morning, carrying the laundry she had ironed the night before, Yvette came down the drive on her way to the house.
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This LT Work is Edward St. Aubyn's complete trilogy, "The Patrick Melrose Trilogy," a/k/a "Some Hope: A Trilogy." The Trilogy includes volume 1, Never Mind (1992); volume 2, Bad News (1992); and volume 3, also titled Some Hope (1994). Please distinguish between this complete trilogy and the single novel that is volume 3. Thank you.
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From Provence to New York to Gloucestershire, through the savageries of a childhood with a tyrannical father and an alcoholic mother, to a young adulthood fraught with drug addiction, we follow Patrick Melrose's search for redemption amidst a crowd of glittering social dragonflies whose vapidity is the subject of his most stinging and memorable barbs. A story of abuse, addiction and recovery, the trilogy is a haunting yet hilarious depiction of a journey to and from the furthest limits of the human experience.… (more)

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