Friday, 8 August 2014

NEVER MIND by Edward St Aubyn

I read MOTHER’S MILK, the last of the Patrick Melrose novels, first, and enjoyed it so much that I’ve decided to go back to the beginning, and read them all.

In MOTHER’S MILK Patrick is in his forties, but in NEVER MIND he is just five. The books are similar though in being lucidly written, witty, and extremely well observed. Here is Patrick’s view on puddles:
In winter there was ice on the puddles, you could see the bubbles trapped underneath and the air couldn’t breathe: it had been ducked by the ice and held under, and he hated that because it was so unfair and so he always smashed the ice to let the air go free.
Nothing will destroy the a cheerfully comic tone of novel quite like a five year old boy being raped by his father, which is what happens about half way through this book. It’s particularly sad, given that the book is apparently autobiographical, and it becomes clear why the entire novel is focusing on just this one day out of Patrick’s childhood.

The father, we learn, is a controlling and unpleasant man, who has thoroughly browbeaten his wife. At one point, after she complains that figs are going to waste, rotting under the tree they have fallen from, he makes he get down on he hands and knees to eat them all. The mother only feels happy in her Buick because to her the “car was like a consulate in a strange city, and she moved towards it with the urgency of a robbed tourist.”

While the father is unpleasant, so too are most other characters. Patrick’s family and friends all live on inherited wealth, and I found it bizarre how much time the spent showing off about their finances. I was surprised by how repellent I found it. I can see showing off if you made the money yourself, but what is the point of showing off if it was your great-great-great grandfather that made it? Perhaps I am just jealous?

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