Saturday, 15 December 2018

Some Hope - Edward St Aubyn

Some Hope is the third in St Aubyn's Patrick Melrose series, the successor to Bad News which I reviewed on this blog earlier in the year.

It's a successor only in the temporal sense. Eight years have passed since the death of Patrick's father in Bad News. Patrick is now 30, his fortune depleted, and completely drug-free. He has, it might be said, lost everything that drew us to him in Never Mind and Bad News. Fortunately he has kept his excoriating wit; unfortunately we are not afforded sufficient opportunity to wallow in it. For Some Hope is only tangentially about Patrick Melrose. In truth it is about an ill-judged birthday party at the country house of some ghastly aristocrats, who have invited Patrick along with countless others, including Princess Margaret, who was still among us when the book was published in 1994.

The novel consists of snatches of waspish conversation between the partygoers and examples of just how stuck-up and downright horrible Princess Margaret was in later life. While this is all amusing - and on occasion laugh-out-loud funny - it is not Melrosian. Patrick, hates himself just as much as he hates other people and is therefore entitled to the sharpest and blackest of humour.

I enjoyed the book and happy to recommend it. It is, however, impossible to escape the suspicion that St Aubyn was merely treading water when he conceived it. He can and has done better and I will continue to read him whenever I get the chance.

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