At Last

Edward St Aubyn

At Last

For Patrick Melrose, ‘family’ is more than a double-edged sword. As friends, relations and foes trickle in to pay final respects to his mother, Eleanor – an heiress who forsook the grandeur of her upbringing for ‘good works’, freely bestowed upon everyone but her own child – Patrick finds that his transition to orphanhood isn’t necessarily the liberation he had so long imagined. 4.0 out of 5 based on 13 reviews
At Last

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 224
RRP £16.99
Date of Publication May 2011
ISBN 978-0330435901
Publisher Picador
 

For Patrick Melrose, ‘family’ is more than a double-edged sword. As friends, relations and foes trickle in to pay final respects to his mother, Eleanor – an heiress who forsook the grandeur of her upbringing for ‘good works’, freely bestowed upon everyone but her own child – Patrick finds that his transition to orphanhood isn’t necessarily the liberation he had so long imagined.

John Crace's Digested Read — The Guardian

Reviews

The Times

Melissa Katsoulis

As an analyser of broken minds and tired hearts he is as energetic, careful and creative as the perfect shrink. And when it comes to spinning a good yarn, whether over the grand scale of three volumes or within a single page of anecdote, he has a natural talent for keeping you on the edge of your seat ... Nothing happens in this amazing book. It’s just Patrick and the awful people talking and remembering. Only at the end do you sense that the ground has shifted

30/04/2011

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The Literary Review

Simon Baker

In most novels the elegant, hilarious or clever sentences stand out because they lie sufficiently far apart, but in At Last they are squashed together municifently on every page ... A humane and enchanting novel, which is profoundly funny, profoundly sad, and most of all profound.

01/05/2011

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The Sunday Times

Peter Kemp

Brimming with witty flair, sardonic perceptiveness and literary finesse, At Last brings a remarkable fictional ­enterprise — a brilliantly controlled story of a life sent out of control — to a winning culmination.

01/05/2011

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The Daily Telegraph

Philip Womack

St Aubyn’s technique is to crystallise emotional intensity into sentences of arctic beauty, which can be caustically witty or brutal. His novels are uncommonly well controlled, and thus their impact is all the more powerful, as if the Alsatian had bitten you despite being tied down ... In At Last this crystallisation and control are on glittering display.

28/04/2011

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The Independent

Leyla Sanai

St Aubyn's acerbic humour is wonderful but this is also a psychologically astute book ... If other characters' voices are occasionally too polished to be convincing, this criticism relates more to St Aubyn's intellect and sharpness: most of his characters are capable of arch comments and wry irony.

01/05/2011

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Times Literary Supplement

Henry Hitchings

... archly cerebral, half-amused, and surreptitiously humane ... St Aubyn’s Melrose novels now deserve to be thought of as an important roman-fleuve. The form’s rewards are cumulative. With At Last, St Aubyn arrives at a knowingly bathetic conclusion: one of the pleasures of his writing is that it delights less in the high than in the comedown.

04/05/2011

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The New York Times

Michiko Kakutani

The books are written with an utterly idiosyncratic combination of emotional precision, crystalline observation and black humor, as if one of Evelyn Waugh’s wicked satires about British aristos had been mashed up with a searing memoir of abuse and addiction, and injected with Proustian meditations on the workings of memory and time.

21/02/2012

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The New Yorker

James Wood

The striking gap between, on the one hand, the elegant polish of the narration, the silver rustle of these exquisite sentences, the poised narrowness of the social satire and, on the other hand, the screaming pain of the family violence inflicted on Patrick makes these books some of the strangest of contemporary novels. The gulf is even more acute in At Last, because many of the scenes at the London funeral have a delicious, oysterish kind of edible comedy—they read smoothly and go down very easily, like something out of Anthony Powell. But ceaselessly working against this comedy is the dark undertow of the text, those memories of everything Patrick has endured ...

27/02/2012

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The London Review of Books

Theo Tait

Though deeply intelligent at the level of the sentence, they can be a bit stupid at the level of character and narrative logic. Given that the whole series is a very convincing critique of privilege and snobbery, it’s odd that the books are so often animated by the great pleasure of looking down on people, usually stock characters ... a fitting conclusion to the Melrose novels ... Though tending more to wordy abstraction than its predecessors, it features some very witty exchanges, many of St Aubyn’s trademark delicate metaphors, and some excursions into grand lyric poetry.

16/06/2011

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The Observer

Adam Mars-Jones

[It] contains extended sequences away from Patrick's point of view. Satirical passages of this sort were integral to the texture of the first book, presumably because a five-year-old, even without being raped, can't adequately follow the adult currents around him, yet it's the weakest element of the series. The withholding of sympathy here is shown up as two-dimensional by its alternation with Patrick's savagely conflicted dealings with his surroundings. The cheap knife of satire quickly loses its edge, but the precision blades of Patrick's mind are always being sharpened against each other ...

08/05/2011

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The Guardian

James Lasdun

After a somewhat bumpy start (it has to be said that both the comedy and the spleen in the opening sections feel a little routine), At Last lifts off into the same crackling atmosphere of psychological emergency as its predecessors. Like them it becomes something one experiences increasingly as a kind of drastic masque or rite, rather than simply a piece of polished storytelling.

06/05/2011

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The Daily Telegraph

Caroline Moore

All this sounds very grim ... but St Aubyn’s fiction triumphs, partly because he writes so well. His style is crisp and light; his similes exhilarating in their accuracy ... [He] is too fiercely unsentimental to provide a happy ending: normal life, even at the end, remains a tremor of mere possibility. Arguably, At Last suffers from even this slight softening: the novel is wordier and less honed than its predecessors ...

04/05/2011

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The Spectator

James Walton

The trouble is that the longer the book goes on, the more the jokes and raging exuberance give way to chunks of Patrick’s largely humourless psychological introspection ... The unsolved (and possibly insoluble) problem, I think, is that what’s good news for Patrick is bad news for us. Two of the projects he sets himself in his quest for mental stability are to rid himself of his addiction to irony, and not to reduce his emotions to aphorisms. Yet, by succeeding, he also ensures that St Aubyn is no longer playing to his strengths.

14/05/2011

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