cover image Mother's Milk

Mother's Milk

Edward St Aubyn, . . Open City, $23 (240pp) ISBN 978-1-890447-40-3

This elegant and witty satire on the dissatisfactions of family life, which continues the story of Patrick Melrose, the hero of St. Aubyn's U.S. debut (Some Hope ), opens in August 2000 at Patrick's mother's home in the south of France, with Patrick's five-year-old son, Robert, remembering with preternatural clarity the circumstances of his birth. No one on this vacation is particularly happy; Robert realizes he's being displaced by the arrival of baby brother Thomas, and Patrick is furious because his mother plans to leave her house (and what remains of her fortune) to Seamus Dourke, a ridiculous New Age guru. Over the next three Augusts, the Melrose story unfolds from different points of view: Patrick is deep in the throes of a midlife crisis; Mary, his wife, feels her self has been obliterated by the incessant demands of motherhood; and the two precociously verbal children struggle to make sense of the complexities of life. The narrative itself is thin, but the pleasures of the book reside in the author's droll observations (overweight Americans, for example, have "become their own air-bag systems in a dangerous world"). It's yet another novel about familial dysfunction but told in a fresh, acerbic way. Agent, Gillon Aitken (U.K.) . (Oct.)