|Edward St. Aubyn|
The circle of "friends" who surround the Melroses (Victor Eisen and Anne Moore, Nicholas Pratt and Bridget Watson-Scott) who have gathered for an informal dinner at the Melrose home appear to not so secretly despise the Melroses, their own partners and even themselves. And who can blame them? They cheat on each other, suck up to the monstrous David to enjoy the luxuries of his home, gossip about Eleanor's alcoholism and subjugation even while they enjoy the fruits of her inherited wealth.
One other person comes off fairly well in the novel, his mother Eleanor's friend Anne Moore who tries to console the wretched boy after he tumbles down the stairs and cuts himself. He remains marooned on the stairwell outside the party waiting for his mother to appear (she does not). A sympathetic Anne resurfaces in the next book to console Patrick about his father's death.
If the author sounds wounded and bitter it's likely because he is. Much of the material regarding Patrick's early experiences is said to be autobiographical.
The language is beautiful and St. Aubyn displays wit and sharp insight into his class but the story feels abbreviated and open-ended. Perhaps St. Aubyn already envisioned the four novels that were to follow?
On to the next book in the quintet called Bad News ... look for the review shortly.