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On the Edge: A Novel
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On the Edge: A Novel

3.04  ·  Rating Details ·  331 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Sabine is the most mercurial woman Peter Thorpe has ever known. Such is his desire for her that he overturns his whole life - his disillusioned merchant-banker's life - and leaves everything behind, not caring that his lover is of no fixed address, nor that his search for her will take him to the beating heart of New Ageism in northern California.

Each of his fellow seekers
ebook, 272 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by Picador (first published 1998)
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This was dreadful. It's one of the worst books I've finished in a long time because I don't usually finish books once I decide I don't like them, but for some insane reason I decided to stick this one out and the wisdom of my usual policy has been affirmed. I guess I kept waiting for it to get better but it just got worse until its climax (harhar), which was (spoiler alert) all the characters split into couples and having graphically described sex for page after gooey gross boring dumb page. Ble ...more
Mar 17, 2012 Lisa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The worst of St. Aubyn. It is one thing to give your characters out-of-body experiences, but quite another to neglect to give your characters bodies. About as scintillating as being trapped in a room with an undergrad on acid. Don't bother to soldier on to the tantric climax. Do bother to read St. Aubyn's outstanding Patrick Melrose series.
Aug 11, 2015 Shane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author has difficulty getting to his point in the novel. That’s what bothered me in this otherwise intelligent and humorous exploration of the New Age movement.

A bunch of westerners, men and women, with relationship, sex, and career issues are converging on a retreat in California that instructs participants on Tantric sex. They are mainly British and American, with the odd Frenchman thrown in. Let’s see, there is Peter chasing a mysterious woman named Sabine with whom he had a three-day aff
Jasun Horsley
For the first 200+ pages this was the smartest, funniest semi-satire on the New Age movement I have ever read; then something weird happened: the satire gets completely swallowed up in an earnest, slightly queasy celebration of the splendors of spiritual sex. In the light of this triumphant finale, the books seems suspiciously like an extended advert for Esalen (where most of the action takes place).

There's nothing obviously wrong with the last passages, it's just that I wasn't convinced by them
Patrick Brown
Jan 05, 2015 Patrick Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not in the same league as his Patrick Melrose novels, but better than Lost for Words, which was light to the point of vapor (at least for me). Again, St. Aubyn's incredible gift for perspective shows up here, with shift POV in many scenes so deftly handled there wasn't a moment of confusion. I could have done without yet another drug hallucination scene (when I am king, these will be first against the literary wall), but otherwise, recommended.
Thanks to the publisher and goodreads for my free copy.

On the Edge essentially skewers certain aspects of New Age culture. And there are parts of this that are amazing -- whales with AIDS, the etiquette of telling someone you've burst into flames, for example.

But this just didn't do it for me. And I think it's mainly to do with the characters.

There's not a whole lot in the way of introductions to characterization at the beginning, nor is the point of view close enough to the characters to really
Jan 10, 2008 Charles rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is an odd - and to my mind largely unsuccessful - book. It describes the adventures of a group of people who would probably term themselves spiritual seekers as they drift from one feelgood farm to another, from Findhorn to Esalen, from tantric sex to psychedelic release. The book is full of detail; praised by one reviewer for the depth and breadth of its research, it seems to me though to be over-researched. Page after page is devoted to the kind of irony-free information about basically c ...more
Isabel Cook
This book could have been so much better, but it really didn't pick up until Chapter 8. It was a constant back and forth up until Chapter 8, which made it hard to hold my concentration up until them. However, from Chapter 8 on, I felt like I could finally follow along with each character's narratives. It was an interesting view on the New-Age movement, one that held a slightly sarcastic tone on those fully indulged in that lifestyle. Overall, I don't know if I'd recommend this book to anyone jus ...more
Gary Branson
Dec 13, 2015 Gary Branson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit difficult to read just as it is difficult listening to someone go on and on about new age enlightenment.... Funny at times as St. Aubyn pokes fun at the whole movement.
Aug 08, 2014 Hilary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Copy received through Goodreads’ First Reads program.

Edward St. Aubyn is best known for his very well-regarded Patrick Melrose novels, one of which (Mother’s Milk) earned him a spot on the 2006 Booker shortlist. This book, originally published in 1998 in the UK, was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize, which is no small accomplishment, and when you add in the frequent Waugh comparisons St. Aubyn earns, it’s safe to say I was very excited for this book.

There are some initial bright spots
Dec 22, 2015 Diana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"On the Edge" is a delightful and clever folly about our confused new-age ideas about enlightenment and our human search for love and sexual fulfillment, written with deep insight, brilliant language, and kind-hearted mockery. Many fine passages show wisdom wrested from the jaws of devastating insight. I can't avoid repeating the word "insight" when characterizing St. Aubyn's writing; he's made a devotional practice of marrying the development of his own life's questions to a serenely masterful ...more
May 23, 2016 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
NEVER MIND that there are characters whose backstories you forget a little when they come back in. I DON'T CARE that he gets deep into writing the New Age mindset and it is bewildering. IT DOESN'T MATTER that his characters aren't fully fleshed out in some spots. WHO AM I TO criticize his snobbishness and obvious sense of superiority over his readers? NONE of it matters.

If you want New Age sincerity, read Eckhart Tolle. If you want sublime, transformative self-consiousness, go ahead and re-read
Aug 18, 2014 Phyllis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I have read by this author. I had a little trouble getting into the groove of his writing in the first chapter, but after that I was hooked. St. Aubyn masterfully captures the good/bad, helpful/helpless, hilarious/mournful wisdom and silliness of all the iterations of new age-i-ness guru quasi-cult fads in modern America. Seriously, I can't think of a single one that escaped his notice.

Your grandma might be shocked by this book -- that is unless your grandma was rocking it
Oct 20, 2015 Ron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems to set out to be a satire of the gullibility of those who fall into the various New Age movements, uncritically wandering from Buddhist meditation to psychic healing to belief in Atlantis and Lemuria to tantric sex to cleansing out toxins, even in their dogs. While I enjoyed much of the lampooning, in the end it all seems to be barbs thrown at easy targets. While I liked, to a degree, the sarcasm of the doubters here (all male, all seemingly living off their gullible girlfriends and goi ...more
I received a complimentary copy via the Goodreads “first reads” program in exchange for an honest review.

I struggle with what to say about this book because I really didn’t seem to “get it” and I really wanted to. I’m familiar with some New Age philosophy but not all, so perhaps some of the subtle humor was simply above my head. What I do know is that the first half of the book zoomed along, and I really thought “this is going to be good!” And then I just lost interest. There were so many char
Alan Newman
Nov 07, 2014 Alan Newman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is StAubyn's first novel though only published in the US recently. This is a snarky funny book about a disparate group of Brits and Americans seeking something life changing in New Age movements. It is scathing satire of New Agism, obscene wealth, human nature, men, relationships, gurus, mountebanks, new speak; but at the same time points out that focusing on ones place in the cosmos, openness to others, and intimate communication can have surprising positive effects-- even to skeptics and ...more
Oct 31, 2014 Monica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british
The book has its moments - the deconstructionist Jean-Paul's psychedelic melt down in the Utah desert, the final Tantric sex scene between Peter and Crystal to name two. It is a thoroughgoing and frequently hilarious send-up of the New Age industry from Esalen to imaginary native shaman wannabes. The seekers range from the gay couple Adam and Yves to the sort of sweet retired couple from Santa Fe - him with his impotence and her with her fixation on the uniqueness of everything. And there are th ...more
Sep 24, 2015 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
mushrooms in utah, Brooke the obsessive philanthropist, crystal for whom the juju actually works, Peter chasing mysterious sabine/"poly". bitingly funny, as always, but nothing to anchor in- every character was a little too absurd to sink into, and the powerful moments (for characters) seemed like st aubyn had to be making fun, so were rendered toothless.
great quote about LA being where the restless went, and, having run out of land to escape to, now mill like neurotic, claustrophobic lemmings.
Ann Campbell
Despite its shortness, this novel was far too long. It is a thin satire of new age culture focusing on a retreat attended by all the characters. I loved certain passages, though, because the author is an incredible prose stylist. His description of the intense but fleeting intimacy that an environment like the retreat promotes is beautiful and insightful. The characters were just an excuse for these narrative insights. In fact, the best character was barely in the narrative at all. The deeply sk ...more
Laurie Frost
The first few chapters were amusing, but the humor wore thin, and as I was thinking about what I had read lately, I strained to bring this book to mind. What I remember most about it is the satirizing of the career of Andrew Harvey, which makes up a good deal of the book. Although I feel that Harvey lost the plot once he became involved with Mother Meera, my respect for his A Journey in Ladakh remains great, and it was difficult to watch him being trashed. Unless he and St. Aubyn have had a fier ...more
Paula Schumm
Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan-Picador for a free download of On the Edge by Edward St. Aubyn.
On the Edge is a satire of New Age spiritualism. Mr. St. Aubyn creates several over-the-top quirky characters who are trying to find themselves. Some of these folks are mostly sane, and some are most definitely crazy but silly. Tantric sex, schizophrenia, dzogchen, zen, meditation are all satirized here. Mildly entertaining and mindless. This one is okay.
Carola Wolff
Feb 19, 2015 Carola Wolff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romane
Peter sucht Sabine. Sabine sucht den Sinn des Lebens. Und alle anderen suchen auch irgendwas. Edward ST Aubyn beschreibt mit unnachahmlich schwarzem Humor die Esoterik Szene und unser aller Bemühen, einen Sinn im ganzen Unsinn zu finden. Dabei schafft er es, seine Figuren nicht zu verraten. Wir lachen mit ihnen, nicht über sie (na gut, manchmal auch das).Aber vor allem, wir verstehen sie.Denn sie sind wie wir ...
Unbedingte Leseempfehlung!
Jul 17, 2012 Vicky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is my third book in a row and I cannot stop reading anything I can find by St Aubyn. His books are addictive, very intelligent and funny. The last one is a great insight into the New Age industry. The new religion of our time is a big topic for millions of people and St Aubyn goes straight into the heart of it. There are funny people, crazy ideas and some unusual revelations. Does it work, or all of it is a huge fake - the author leaves the answer with the reader.
Jun 04, 2015 Simone rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Actually, no, I didn't finish it; I put it on my Life Is Too Short list. I adore the Patrick Melrose novels. This is an early effort and, while amusing, having fun at the expense of the New Age movement is too easy. The characters are two-dimensional and cliched. The psychedelic drug adventure in the US wilderness is tedious. St. Aubyn is better than this.
Oct 29, 2014 Charles rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It is never a good sign when all I want to do with the book I am reading is to slam it shut and stop wasting my time with it. Once I read the first 50 pages, I got St. Aubyn's joke: everything New Age is deserving of ridicule, and since he is such a gifted and acerbically witty writer, he's just the guy to deliver. Yawn. This has rather permanently put me off St. Aubyn.
This book turned out to be completely not what I expected -- it was pitched as a story about a London banker who gives it all up to look for a enchanting woman at some sort of retreat in Big Sur. At least that's the way I read the back cover. Instead it was about of eclectic people who all end up meeting at a frantic sex workshop at some sort of retreat in Big Sur.
Jan 02, 2016 Suzanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book as a giveaway from GoodReads. Well written book but not one that you can set aside and easily resume where you left off. Had to start over several times so I could keep the story line straight.
Aug 28, 2015 Peter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected this to be a brutal satire of New Ageism. There is definitely a good bit of skewering, but St. Aubyn is also surprisingly, touchingly sympathetic to the instinct of yearning for deeper meaning and connection.
Caroline Donaldson
I utterly adored this book! Fab exploration of the neuroticisms of New Age and hippy spiritual culture. Possibly in my top 10 all time books. Great for recovering hippies and survivors of the 1960 counter culture!
Nov 03, 2015 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny book about New Age themes, but not tight in terms of plotting. I believe this was published in England long ago but just brought out in the U.S. following author's recent success. Not sure who I'd recommend it to; JK would find it too close to home.
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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
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