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Mother's Milk (The Patrick Melrose Novels #4)

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,386 Ratings  ·  258 Reviews


The once illustrious, once wealthy Melroses are in peril. Caught up in the wreckage of broken promises, child-rearing, adultery and assisted suicide, Patrick finds his wife Mary consumed by motherhood, his mother in thrall to a New Age foundation, and his young son Robert understanding far more than he should. But even as the family struggl

Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published April 15th 2011 by Picador (first published October 11th 2005)
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K.D. Absolutely
Jun 28, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Booker shortlist; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010)
This book challenged the convention of believability in using POV. The book opens with a chapter narrated by a five-year old boy, Robert Melrose thinking and having insights of that of an intelligent adult. At first, it threw me off. Unbelievable. Who did St. Aubyn think he was? Augusten Burroughs? It took me a while before I reopened the book. I said to myself, there must be something in here. This was shortlisted in 2005 Booker Prize and a recent addition to the 1001 Books You Must Read Before ...more
Justin Evans
Aug 04, 2012 Justin Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Judging by the goodreads reviews (which are usually very reliable), this book seems to have been mis-marketed. Readers complain that the characters are unpleasant (which you should know going in, I admit) and that St. Aubyn is 'too much of a stylist,' which sounds to me like saying a composer is 'too musical' or a basketball player is 'too athletic.' From a straight description, you might think this is akin to, say Gerard Woodward's semi-autobiographical trilogy: addiction, family issues, well-w ...more
#4 is as hard to rate as the rest, being like them wildly uneven. At least to my taste. In Mother's Milk the characters around Patrick Melrose are no good at all, vague, phoned-in, not-quite-there; boring. But from Patrick's point of view St Aubyn's prose rockets into Cioran-ish heights of nihilist lyricism. The "sardonic harmonies" of the stupid generations are ever more obvious to our extending lifespans and bored, self-devouring domestic over-analysis. Vistas of futility, illuminated further ...more
Sandra Lawson
May 31, 2011 Sandra Lawson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first novel I've read by Edward St Aubyn but was captivated by his style and wit. Although Mother's Milk is one of a series of stories, there is no need to have read the predecessors as it stands on its own perfectly. The title refers to the relationships between mothers and their children, and these bonds are analysed and explored throughout the novel.

The writer veers between perspectives, writing from the viewpoints of several of the novel's characters. My greatest enjoyment came f
Apr 29, 2010 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
Really enjoyed this! It's clever, funny ... but it loses a star because the author faithfully touches all the familiar moans of British anti-Americanism. Americans are fat and can't fit into aeroplane seats! American food is revolting, and the pizzas not as good as European ones! American TV is mindless! Baseball is boring! Everyone who works in the American service industry pretends to be cheerful! The American approach to health and safety is infantilising! American millionaires are vulgar and ...more
Aug 27, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Whew...if you start the St Aubyn (what is the word for 1 after a trilogy?) series at the first book and read through, the character's journey from abuse to drugs to misanthropy to redemption is unlike anything I've ever read. It's on a par with Waugh for meanness and wit and flow - and that's high praise - but unlike Waugh he has a genuine conscience and wants to understand his and his character's processes. The degradation and deep amusement at the worst aspects of everyone in the first four bo ...more
Ben Loory
May 17, 2013 Ben Loory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He closed his eyes and let the pool-side inferno dissipate. After a few hours of other people, he had to get the pile-up of impressions out of him one way or another; by doing impersonations, or working out how things worked, or just trying to empty his mind. Otherwise the impressions built up to a critical density and he felt as if he was going to explode.

Sometimes, when he was lying in bed, a single word like 'fear' or 'infinity' flicked the roof off the house and sucked him up into the night,
Aug 29, 2014 Phrynne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Number four in the series and Patrick is married with children. The start of this book is amazing when we meet Patrick's first child, Robert. Really it is all nonsense as no child could possibly be like this but the writing is so beautiful and the ideas so lovely. Robert quickly became my favourite character. I was hoping that Patrick would finally find himself in this book but he has not. Understandable really as there is still one more book to go. Can't wait!
Mar 30, 2013 Corey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These Patrick Melrose novels are rich and smart. They remind me at times of Philip Roth.
This: “’Oh, darling…are you your own worst enemy?’
‘I certainly hope so…I dread to think that would happen if somebody else turned out to be better at it than me’.”
Deborah Meyler
Aug 21, 2013 Deborah Meyler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read Never Mind and had to keep stopping to copy down sentences because I couldn't bear to let them go. St Aubyn lacerates you with the taut-wire strength of his prose and intellect - the book is profoundly beautiful and profoundly shocking. Part of the shock with all of them is one's own complicity.

Bad News is a tour de force of writing and experience - that is the emptiest of reviews, so I would just say, go and read it. You feel drowned in someone else's perception.

Some Hope made me feel
Oct 29, 2012 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The fourth installment in St. Aubyn's Melrose novel takes us to an older Patrick Melrose married and the father of two children. Melrose trys to protect his children from the horrors of his own childhood. He is largely successful in this effort at least as it impacts the children however the Melrose family Patrick and his wife Mary suffer greatly as their marriage flounders and Patrickreintroduces himself to alcohol abuse and infidelity. Patrick further wrestles with his love hate ,mostly hate r ...more
Tim Heaney
Apr 26, 2013 Tim Heaney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
Welp, four down, one to go. I honestly don't see myself rushing out to read "At Last", the fifth and final novel of the Patrick Melrose cycle. Tis a shame, I was quite looking forward to these books. John Updike's Rabbit series is a touchstone for me, and the idea of a somewhat similar series, but one that follows a contemporary man from childhood to middle age, was immensely appealing.
What I could not ever entirely get past, though, was how awful EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THESE FUCKING BOOKS is.
May 18, 2008 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
IMHO, top-notch writing. His sentences and descriptions are often a joy to read. An odd balance of dry, acidic, sardonic humor and genuine compassion.

Book Description:
"A New York Times Notable Book, Mother’s Milk is a brilliantly stylish and witty novel by a master of modern British fiction. Widely acclaimed in the United States and the UK, Mother’s Milk follows the Melroses, the same family featured in St. Aubyn’s trilogy, Some Hope. First we meet Robert, who provides an exceptionally droll an
Oct 11, 2010 Kirstie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in parenthood, classism, euthanasia, Brits
This book is at times rather wickedly funny in its derision towards upper class parents and their cluelessness. At the same time, there's a bit too much self pitying amongst the middle class who don't seem to realize how well off they still are in comparison to most of the parents in the world at large. It's a rather sad statement on inheritance and euthanasia as well. The relationships are all strained and the plot events are at times a little too predictable. Still, there are some really funny ...more
Athena Kennedy
Edward St. Aubyn's quirky, scathing little novel touches on a resonant subject, which made for a surprisingly delightful and balanced read. The tale is narrated by three members of the Melrose family who are as a whole intellectual, self-centered and empty people. The narration bounces between characters with ease; from precocious 5-year old Robert who opens the book narrating the circumstances of his birth first hand in a bitter voice, to Patrick, the father of the family narrating his dissatis ...more
Reuben Alcatraz
Apr 05, 2010 Reuben Alcatraz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You know how sometimes people complain about unremittingly dour contemporary novels where all the characters are unlikable assholes? Well, this one's really good! Rather than tacking away from the cynicism with heartwarming flashes of goodness (gag), Aubyn jibes, as it were, pointing the helm directly into the maelstrom of misanthropy, and the result is guaranteed to make your family look good in comparison.

This book is a very banal, rather pastoral look at family of narcissists. It's probably
Kirsty Darbyshire
Dec 10, 2010 Kirsty Darbyshire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
Loved this. It's on the Booker Prize shortlist; it had the longest odds when I first looked but now I've read it the odds have shortened. At least that's how it looks from here.

Fabulous family story dealing, as the title implies, with mothers; the beginnings and the ends of lives, and the complications in between. Fabulously readable from the first page. I liked the changing viewpoints, long sections to start with and then muddling up as the story got more involved. I didn't like some of the cha
Stephanie (Stepping out of the Page)
A book that i'm most glad to have finished reading. From the beginning, I was very confused of the characters and their situations and there was still a lack of clarity even towards the end. The story wasn't intriguing and it felt as though I was just skimming through the story - I didn't feel connected to it and I didn't get absorbed in it at all, feeling nothing towards the several characters. The age and maturity of Robert did not seem right at all It did improve about half way through, but i ...more
Jun 13, 2016 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

If you want to sum up Mother's Milk in a few lines, then the first stanza of Philip Larkin's This Be the Verse does a great job:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

Mother's Milk is ultimately about parenthood but things go much deeper than that.

Patrick Melrose is now forty and entering a mid life crisis. He has the responsibility of being a father and considering that he was the product of a
May 22, 2007 Adam rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't like this at all. Not read the others in the saga, but don't think that's why i didn't like it.

Basically, Main character's mother is not going to leave him the country house in France. Well, we all know how that feels, don't we? Mummy, my champagne's warm.

Also fouund St Aubyn to be too muuch of a stylist for me, and his subject of upper middle class, middle age doubt too interior and I didn't connect.
May 17, 2013 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once again, I look at the people who choose the Booker Prize and think "Really?" The themes in this book are amazing, except that I really could have done without the shift in narrators. The earlier books felt stronger, more focused.
Nov 27, 2014 Philip rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
A perfectly decent novel, but not a Patrick Melrose novel. There simply doesn't feel to be enough of Patrick in it - that amazing, addictive voice from the first 3 books feels distant or diluted in Mother's Milk. The plot is reasonable, but it doesn't have the strength of the earlier books - we don't get inside Patrick's head enough, a lot has happened (dealt with childhood events revealed in the previous book, married, had kids) and yet we don't know how any of this affected the man we've got t ...more
Alex Sarll
Just as I wasn't entirely convinced by the first Patrick Melrose book, so with the first section here, again narrated from a child's viewpoint. And done so very well, at that - but more seemed lost than gained by making that child Patrick's son, adding on a volume to a trilogy that had worked perfectly well as it was. But then, as before, we jump forward in time, and change perspective to Patrick, now a father of two and an absolute wreck, and everything clicks into place. I found Some Hope's re ...more
May 17, 2016 Anda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I declare myself thoroughly disappointed by this one after being told(repeatedly) how refreshing and well written it is. The plot comes nothing close to anything of consistence, and the characters lack an actual personality and truthfulness. Altough the descriptions were tastefully elaborated, I couldn't bear the dull mental ache of reading the other books in this series.

If I had to pick one word in order to describe "Mother's Milk", it would definitely be 'uninspired'.
Jul 09, 2012 Vicky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am very impressed by this book and already plan to read the next title - "At last". I understood that there are 3 books but I started from the 2nd one. Written in a smart and funny way, this is a story of a family, where husband is too intellectual for his own good and the wife is to motherly to be someone else in this marriage. It is all about mothers and sons, life and death, families and freedom from it. The two sons are interesting personalities, living in a world of childhood but too invo ...more
Danielle McClellan
I heard an interview with St. Aubyn and wondered how I had somehow missed his books completely. Well-written and clever, this novel is rough going at times as main character struggles with his rage at his mother, who has decided to leave her estate to a charismatic Irish leader and his new-age organization. We move from the point of view of the children to the adults. The kids are lovely and well-defined, the adults...not so much. The wife is a cypher and fairly one-dimensional and I was disappo ...more
Jan 12, 2013 Lynn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the beginning, which had the marvelous voice of a young boy. He's hyperarticulate, and in even has well-formed thoughts in utero. He also has a wonderfully clear-sighted view of the world. Then I plowed through the middle, with lots of pain caused by people damaged by awful parents. I almost stopped, but I'm glad I didn't, because I got a much clearer view of all concerned by the end.

Loved the kids particularly, who say just what's on their mind. And I loved the style. St Aubyn has the m
Megan Henrich
May 15, 2012 Megan Henrich rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've often felt nostalgia for a child-like imagination, and this book reminded me how powerful and pervasive imagination really is. We tend to cling to things, forgetting their downsides (and certainly this book shows the horrifying side of the imagination), and also forgetting that we never lost them in the first place. This book can be a bit cerebral at times, but in a really eloquent way that speaks to the characters, particularly the father, Patrick. This book is an excellent model of strain ...more
Роман четвертый, в котором у Патрика появляются дети (а у них -- собственный и весьма разумный внутренний голос), жена, не успев побыть женой, становится матерью, любовница, также не успев побыть женой, становится любимой женщиной, а парализованная и всячески больная мать, отписав все свои деньги религиозному культу, просит об эвтаназии.
Jan 13, 2012 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
Precocious children, dysfunctional parents, inheritance, dementia, alcoholism, motherhood, shamanism: there is a lot crammed into this slice of life from the one-wealthy Melrose family. St.Aubyn handles different viewpoints with ease. His prose has a remarkable quality, as if the words are chosen with an assurance that defies contradiction. This confidence which is both linguistic and stylistic sweeps you inside the head of a stressed husband, an over-protective mother and even a new-born baby w ...more
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Edward St Aubyn was born in London in 1960. He was educated at Westminster school and Keble college, Oxford University. He is the author of six novels, the most recent of which, ‘Mother’s Milk’, was shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize, won the 2007 Prix Femina Etranger and won the 2007 South Bank Show award on literature.

His first novel, ‘Never Mind’ (1992) won the Betty Trask award. This no
More about Edward St. Aubyn...

Other Books in the Series

The Patrick Melrose Novels (5 books)
  • Never Mind (The Patrick Melrose Novels, #1)
  • Bad News (The Patrick Melrose Novels, #2)
  • Some Hope (The Patrick Melrose Novels, #3)
  • At Last (The Patrick Melrose Novels, #5)

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“Was he, after all, really a bad man doing a brilliant impersonation of an idiot? It was hard to tell. The connections between stupidity and malice were so tangled and so dense.” 2 likes
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