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The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother's Milk (The Patrick Melrose Novels #1-4)

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,321 Ratings  ·  559 Reviews

AnAtlantic MagazineBest Book of the Year
APublishers Weekly Best Book of the Year

“The Melrose Novels are a masterwork for the twenty-first century, written by one of the great prose stylists in England.” —Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones

For more than twenty years, acclaimed author Edward St. Aubyn has chronicled the life of Patrick Melrose, paintin
ebook, 688 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Picador (first published 2012)
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Sep 29, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Investors talk often about risk-return tradeoffs. The more volatile an asset is, the higher the expected return has to be to want to hold it. The four short books packaged together as The Patrick Melrose Novels are at the extreme end of the risk-return spectrum. Edward St. Aubyn took big chances hoping the rewards would be commensurate. He risked alienating readers at every turn with characters who are loathsome or over-exposed. And with the depth of the interior development, the potential losse ...more
So far, reads like Alan Hollinghurst's excruciatingly fucked up and much richer second cousin, in the best possible way. Seems to explore the unstated hypothesis that having to earn a living is what distracts most people from destroying their children, themselves, and everyone around them. Also definitively answers the question of whether the most lurid and cliched subjects can be not just salvaged but made new, relevant, and moving through brilliant English prose. (Spoiler: yes.)
Aug 01, 2012 Christian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most fun I've ever had reading about incest, heroin addiction, narcissism, cruelty and dementia. The blackest of comedies, written in beautiful, elegant prose, with razor-sharp dialog and heartbreaking, finely-drawn characters.

If, like me, you can't imagine enjoying yet another book about decadent rich Brits, I implore you to set your class prejudices aside and let yourself sink into the lush, awful world of the Melroses. Patrick's journey from child victim, to wanton self-destroyer, to des
Jan 30, 2013 El rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to El by: The Professor
Another great recommendation from The Professor. He recommended this specific edition which holds the first four books in the Melrose series (the fifth book, At Last, was published in 2011). He said that he had trouble putting the stories down once he started, and I have to agree with that.

Never Mind - This story broke my heart quite a bit. Patrick Melrose is a five-year-old boy, living in the cold shadow of his disgustingly rich parents who barely know the first thing about parenting. He endure
May 01, 2012 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just began reading this collection of the first four books in the quintet of Patrick Melrose books, and I am STUNNED by what an amazing writer St. Aubyn is. Every paragraph contains a gem, and his characterizations are brilliant, as is his character development... and the way he handles the heaviest subject matter you can imagine.

I've been wondering, "Where has Edward St. Aubyn been all my life?" And then I remember, "Right, right. Pedophiliac, homosexual incest. Not the usual fare of my frien
Malena Watrous
Jan 22, 2013 Malena Watrous rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simultaneously hilarious and devastating--my favorite, brutal combination--wringing out laughter that hurts. As a friend put it, "These are the fucked up descendants of the downton abbey crew." There is this incredible tension between Patrick Melrose's hyper-articulate linguistic self indulgence as he describes the torments of his childhood and subsequent addictions and misery, and the almost inchoate line that he repeats, "No one should do that to another person," this wounded cry at what was t ...more
George Witte
Feb 04, 2013 George Witte rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't recommend this book highly enough...but it's not for every reader. Anyone who writes, or wants to write, should read these four novels and the concluding fifth, At Last. Read with a highlighter in hand because you will want to mark at least one sentence, one line of the cutting, witty, mordant, pitch-perfect dialogue from every single page. Readers of Martin (and Kingsley) Amis, Evelyn Waugh, and the darkest of the John Cheever novels and stories will be utterly gripped by these novels a ...more
Dec 26, 2013 Szplug marked it as intermittently-reading  ·  review of another edition
A pair of recent reviews of At Last prompted me to take-up this tetralogy that I purchased, on a whim, a couple of months ago. Said whim was driven, in large part, by my attraction to the stark cover; and with the further experience of physically grasping and admiring the thing in my very hands, I find myself beguiled by this book's aesthetics—a cover design as black as Satan's pupils floating box islands of a neon pink that speaks of electrocuted roses or Rosé deepened to a homogenized lacquer ...more
Mar 14, 2012 Andres rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sonyreader
I read the whole thing cover to cover in like a week, so it does not bore you. That said, I'm feeling hard pressed to find something fascinating to say about these books. It follows the life of your typical messed up person, starting with early childhood with an abusive father and a disengaged mother, progressing through drug addicted young adulthood, drug-free further adulthood and finally married with children. The many demons that haunt the protagonist never really cease haunting him, they si ...more
Page 329. So, that's it. I will not continue with this book. It is rare that you read a book that has not a single likeable person in it. The main character is repulsive, all people around him disgusting, scheming, mean and, if that sounds interesting, no, even if you wish it would, it is not. The story develops like in an extra glossy very mean gossip magazine. If the intention of the author is to make you sick of these people, he certainly succeeded with me. Sorry, perhaps you have to belong t ...more
Sep 05, 2012 Tara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
OMG. apparently, the same reactions as many other reviewers, and "stunned" is the main one. have only read the first five chapters, and could hardly put down. and it isn't a quick page turner for plot, but the writing is so exceptionally beautiful that makes it a page turner. and as i was trying to put into sentences all the wonderful words such as enchanted, shocked, heightened senses, lucid, vivid, aesthetic, profound, philosophical, i realized that all the other reviewers have done the very s ...more
Patrick Brown
Jun 11, 2013 Patrick Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What do you want from fiction? The more I read, the more I realize that what I want, what fiction does for me, is allows me to live in another person's mind. To be able to see the world as someone else sees it, that's what I'm looking for when I open a novel. The other pleasures of the novel -- style, voice, etc. -- all flow from the consciousness of the characters.

In recent years, very few books have given me the glimpse into a character that The Patrick Melrose novels have. Told over a period
Jun 22, 2014 brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
toward the end of some hope, a snooty princess spells out what these novels are all about:

'It must be funny having the same name as so many other people,' she speculated. 'I suppose there are hundreds of John Halls up and down the country.'
'It teaches one to look for distinction elsewhere and not to rely on an accident of birth,' said Johnny casually.
'That's where people go wrong,' said the Princess, compressing her lips, 'there is no accident in birth.'
She swept on before Johnny had a chance
Gary  the Bookworm
Dec 18, 2013 Gary the Bookworm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosIf you've ever wondered what became of the Dedlocks of Chesney Wold you need look no further than this quartet of novels by Edward St. Aubyn. According to him, they changed their name to Melrose and fled to the South of France. We first meet Patrick Melrose as a lad of five in Never Mind. Poor Patrick battles against a brilliant, criminally-sadistic father and his criminally-negligent, rich American wife, who is capable of mothering only in the abstract. As much as Dickens predicted the declin ...more
Jan 03, 2014 Pamela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy effing cow. These four novels -- it's hard to say whether they read as four separate works or one large one; I tend to the latter opinion -- amount to some of the most powerful work I've read in years. St. Aubyn combines extraordinarily bleak and painful subject matter (parental sadism and neglect, rape, addiction) with robust comedy (yes, believe it) and exquisite prose. But it's more than that St. Aubyn can tell a harrowing and resonant story--it's that he dares to take on a wildly ambiti ...more
E' stata una piacevolissima scoperta quest'epopea familiare – o questo moderno Bildungsroman – preso per curiosità, più che dando credito alla fascetta e alle innumerevoli lodi di scrittori contemporanei.

Ciò che colpisce e lega subito è la scrittura bellissima, elegante e profonda a un tempo nel tratteggiare caratteri, stati d'animo e situazioni, oltre al tema o i temi cardine, affatto banali o facili da trattare. Si parla di abusi sui minori, in questo libro, e la crudissima scena narrata quasi
Judith Hannan
Jul 25, 2012 Judith Hannan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, as I mentioned in my recent blog, raised the question for me more so than any recent book I have read,of what is means to say a book is good. Without a doubt the writing in The Patrick Melrose Novels (a quartet of novels), an inspection and indictment of the prvileged English class, is exquisite. St. Aubyn is a keen observer but he also delivers his observations to the page in ways that are unique and also serve the story (as opposed to some writing that seems more like decoration.) T ...more
May 26, 2013 Suzanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie Ehlers
I can understand why the U.S. publisher decided to release these four short novels in one volume: Once the fifth book was ready to be released, some excitement needed to be drummed up on this side of the Atlantic, but getting readers enthused about four separate novels by an author they’d never heard of before, in preparation for a fifth, was a tall order. Better, for that purpose, to release the first four as one long book.

That justification aside, I don’t necessarily feel it works to read thes
Feb 22, 2012 Howard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mordantly funny and desperately sad, these four novels, written -- I'd guess -- over the last twenty some years, trace the life of Patrick Melrose, a member of the English upper class, from when Patrick is a roughly five-year-old boy to when he's become himself the father of two young sons. Melrose's upbringing was unspeakably horrid (probably like St. Aubyn's) and he pays the price as he careens from near collapse to recovery and back to near collapse while living through the death of his hatef ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Bart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When these four novels are at their best, they are what might be termed post-Austenian. The rest of the time, they are Brett Easton Ellis' American Psycho with cutting dialogue in lieu of violence.

The third of the four novels, Some Hope, is probably the best of them, as it takes the Austen formula of the big ball and turns it into a vicious affair, complete with a princess and musicians and witty observations such as:

'I don't suppose that forgiveness was uppermost in the minds of people who were
Andrew Schirmer
May 11, 2012 Andrew Schirmer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anglophilia
Do the Melrose novels, to use the words of Kingsley Amis, writing about Wodehouse "...continue on in their unique way, unmarked by the passage of time?" Yes, in a way they do. St. Aubyn writes minimally, allowing only a modicum of detail to mark place and time. His specialty is dialogue, that of the ironic variety, placing him squarely in the English comic tradition. Nearly all the novels (excepting "Mother's Milk"--incidentally, the only one to be Booker-shortlisted) revolve around an Event whi ...more
Lily MacKenzie
Jan 11, 2016 Lily MacKenzie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How Can Anyone Out Iago Iago?

I’m usually not drawn to a book series, and the only reason I chose Edward St. Aubyn’s The Complete Patrick Melrose Novels is because I got a great introductory deal from Audible. All five of these books were on one tape for the same price I would have paid for a single audio edition. The Scot in me couldn’t resist getting a deal, and I thought I could tolerate listening to it during my long commutes in rush hour traffic to and from San Francisco.

Another bonus? The
Apr 22, 2016 J. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Let's see. A super abusive encounter with a female character right off the top, and then by about page 65 we're given a violent child rape committed by the same adult offender.

And only about 6oo more pages? No. Just plain no.
Welcome to the dumpster.
Richard Kramer
Apr 23, 2012 Richard Kramer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
just started. will report in as situation develops. So far witty and dark. And he has the most perfect aristocratic accent I've ever heard (he has been much interviewed). His writer's voice is equally
elegant. I've read five pages, but I'm smelling a five-star horse here.

update April 23

I smelled wrong. It's four stars, and comfortably so. A technically very assured book, that made me want to imitate certain techniques, which is a very fluid, roving point of view, unique in the way it inhabits a s
Ayelet Waldman
Apr 17, 2013 Ayelet Waldman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reread all of these. They're every bit as good as the first few times I read them.
M. D.  Hudson
Like virtually all contemporary novels, The Patrick Melrose Novels (PMN from here on out) were oversold (most recently by The Atlantic). But not entirely oversold...there is much that is worthy in these four slender novels. Whether it is enough for all the praise and prizes I am not entirely convinced, but these were better than a lot of novels I've encountered recently.

The big event that the reviewers always talk about is the rape, at age five, of the protagonist Patrick Melrose, by his father
Apr 05, 2014 Callie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So the New Yorker article I read about this series mentioned that St Aubyn has been compared to Evelyn Waugh and Oscar Wilde, but while I was reading I thought he reminded me more of Maugham, especially 'Of Human Bondage'. I think it's the smooth-as-butter prose and the self-loathing protagonist. Each novel in the series is better than the one before and for the last one I give five stars, rather than four.

St Aubyn is so deft, everything seems so easy for him. I love the way he darts into and o
Mar 22, 2014 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sour. That's the word that kept going through my mind as I read The Patrick Melrose Novels. These novellas are filled with sour people who have sour children and think sour thoughts. Maybe it's a British thing, but these characters are so filled with bitterness and contempt that it grates on you (well, it grated on me) after a while. But there is such wonderful writing in between the cracks here that kept me pushing ahead. The first book, Never Mind, and the last, Mother's Milk really have some ...more
Michael Berman
Jan 30, 2013 Michael Berman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I'm not sure what I can add that hasn't been said by other reviewers. This series of novels is funny, poignant, searing, and unique. Most of all, it's an unsparing look at the damage that parents bring upon their children, both through their base motivations, but also through their desire to avoid the mistakes of *their* parents.

In lesser hands, the story of the self-loathing Patrick Melrose would be cliched, but St. Aubyn's language and observations are so cutting that the reader understands Pa
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  • A Way of Life, Like Any Other
  • Outline
  • Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts
  • Varamo
  • After the Fire, a Still Small Voice
  • The Shooting Party
  • A Meaningful Life
  • Loving / Living / Party Going
  • Corrigan
  • City of Bohane
  • The Northern Clemency
  • The Collected Stories
  • The House in Paris
  • Last Curtsey: The End of the Debutantes
  • Light Years
  • I'll Go to Bed at Noon
  • Vertigo
  • Desperate Characters
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)
  • Mother's Milk (The Patrick Melrose Novels, #4)
  • At Last (The Patrick Melrose Novels, #5)

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“Everything was usual. That was depression: being stuck, clinging to an out-of-date version of oneself.” 16 likes
“Looking after children can be a subtle way of giving up... They become the whole ones, the well ones, the postponement of happiness, the ones who won't drink too much, give up, get divorced, become mentally ill. The part of oneself that's fighting against decay and depression is transferred to guarding them from decay and depression. In the meantime one decays and gets depressed.” 9 likes
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