Thursday, August 22, 2013

Patrick at 45

In At Last by Edward St. Aubyn, we reunite with Patrick Melrose once again, this time for the occasion of his mother's funeral.  Very few of the characters from the earlier novels are included in this book, as most of Patrick's parents friends, who played important roles, especially in Never Mind and Some Hope, have died.  Patrick is joined by his old friend, Johnny, some of his mother's relatives, his wife, and his kids, among others.

Patrick is shocked by the feelings that Eleanor's death brings to him.  He seems to better remember some of his father's misdeeds and crimes, while oscillating between seeing his mother as a childlike victim, and blaming her for selfishly abandoning her role of mother.  Most of At Last is Patrick's struggle to understand what exactly it is that he feels about Eleanor's death, and whether it has given him the freedom that he thought that it would.

My favorite quote from At Last is when Patrick is explaining something that an old friend of his mother's said to him.  He says "Her experience of Eleanor was so different from mine, it made me realize that I'm not in charge of the meaning of my mother's life . . . "  Patrick meant that it is not up to him to judge Eleanor's worth or define her legacy, through his jaded eyes.  It's interesting, because while Eleanor was very much a vacant, if not absent parent, that same quote could apply now to all of the "helicopter" moms who are working to define their existence through their child's accomplishments.  The pressure that they (we?) are putting on their (our?) children to succeed and vicariously make us great must be overwhelming.  Your child is not in charge of the meaning of your life. 

At Last is probably my favorite Patrick Melrose book, with Some Hope running a close second.  I think that it is St. Aubyn's intention that this book will be the last in the serise.  I'm not sure that he'll be able to stop writing though, and I hope that it is not.  At Last was also a critic's favorite, being included on the NYT Notables list for 2012.

ON THE OTHER HAND. . . I gave up on The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine.  I got about 110 pages in (although I was listening on audio book), and I just couldn't take any more whining.  Apparently, men were going to rescue the two daughters, but I really couldn't have cared less.   What a surprise that I didn't like it! (sarcasm)  I should have never picked it up when (1) it is blurbed by Elizabeth Stout, whose books I never seem to like, and (2) it boasts on the book jacket that it is "a loose jointed homage to Jane Austen's beloved Sense and Sensibility".   We all know how well I get along with Jane Austen. However, it was a NYT Notable for 2010, so I may have given it a chance anyway.

 Instead, I picked up The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison.  I am so glad that I made the change, as I am LOVING Fundamentals.  There will be more on this one soon!

Both At Last and The Three Weissmanns of Westport were part of the Off the Shelf Challenge, which brings me to 17 books done.

Next up:  The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

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