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On the Edge

3.09  ·  Rating details ·  388 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Peter, a disaffected merchant banker in his mid-thirties, suffers a coup de foudre when he lays eyes on the delectable Sabine, and sets out on a reckless mission to track her down. His search takes him to some of the outposts of New Age culture, and there he finds something he wasn't looking for.
Paperback, 234 pages
Published April 5th 1999 by Vintage (first published 1998)
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3.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  388 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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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 rated it did not like it
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.
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 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.
Aug 11, 2015 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
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 rated it it was ok
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 Root
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 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.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In comparison to The Patrick Melrose Novels, On the Edge is light reading. Very witty, often mean, in the end forgiving towards the flaws of the human character and all the New Age fads. The book starts very slowly, and I found it difficult to motivate myself to keep on reading, but after the first third it gets more entertaining. St Aubyn likes to state the hidden motives of the characters right away, while many other authors would slowly and meticulously show them in their characters' actions. ...more
May 15, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Very interesting book about people who're attending a "tantric sex" workshop at Esselyn in Big Sur. Written by a very English man, Edward St. Aubyn.
I had a real love-hate relationship with this book. Some parts infuriated me with boredom and irritation, and some parts made me laugh hard. The guy seems to really know people like these characters, but he doesn't seem to like us Americans very much. It made me want to go to Esselyn just to people-watch.
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
His weakest, which is still pretty good. A practice run for the glorious Mother's Milk, same themes and many of the same vocal tics.

I was disappointed to find him being sympathetic and fair to my ideological enemies, the mystic anti-rationalists. Shout out to Findhorn too!
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What? Terrible.
Aug 08, 2014 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
Feb 22, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a mess. The New Age philosophy statements, mixed with too many characters to keep track of, no storyline, pages and pages on describing someone's drug trip...urgh. Avoid.
Dec 22, 2015 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 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 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 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 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 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 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
Aug 07, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first time I read this book, I thought it was very funny. I still do, but have to say that it is not as controlled and accomplished as St. Aubyn's other books. The loose, free-wheeling structure may be a deliberate style to suit the new-age subject matter, so might the sense of detachment I got from reading it. This is satire, but apart from skewering a few pretensions, it is quite gentle satire. Some people do learn something from the workshops, although often in spite of the facilitators, ...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 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 rated it really liked it
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.
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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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