A few good, recent books


Wednesday, December 20, 2006 - 3:00 pm

When in doubt, go with the Booker finalists. IÕd been meaning to get around to Edward St. Aubyn for some time; by waiting, I was able to read his 1998 trilogy (published here in 2003 as Some Hope) and this yearÕs sequel, MotherÕs Milk, back to back, thus subjecting myself to a gratifying immersion into the life of Patrick Melrose, a postaristocrat raised by impoverished upper-class monsters. Heathcliff is a kitten compared to PatrickÕs own father, an abuser who congratulates himself for having the sport to rape his five-year-old son. Not surprisingly, Patrick becomes a prodigious addict in young adulthood — St. Aubyn writes in Some Hope of addictionÕs complicated maneuverings with such convincing attention, it seems like the dreariest work; sobriety seems so much easier. Indeed, by the start of MotherÕs Milk, Patrick has cleaned up enough to become a barrister, marry and have children. But then heÕs stuck with the task of not inflicting on others any portion of the rage he carries with him — not easy when his wife has supplanted him in the marriage bed with their second son, and his own mother disinherits him. St. Aubyn gets the broken-down British class system like nobody else writing today; he is the heir to Evelyn Waugh, just as funny and dark, even more heartbreaking.