At Last: conclusion or new beginning?

11 April 2011

I joined the St Aubyn party rather late, in 2005/6, when we brought his great trilogy Some Hope to the wider new audience we were confident it deserved.

 

As is said of Eleanor, Patrick’s mother, whose funeral threads the novel's narrative together, it has an innocent quality that is really attractive; it draws you in and at the same time it keeps you at a certain distance. St Aubyn is panoramically informed about the human condition, and meticulous in his understanding, and his skill is such that you feel you share his distance; only he could make a central character who 'had long suffered from Negative Incapability, the opposite of that famous Keatsian virtue of being in mysteries, uncertainties and doubts without reaching out for facts and explanations' so interesting.

It concludes the quintet, but stands by itself; but when you've read it you will certainly read this magnificent sequence from the beginning.

 

It is one of those rare books that slip into your mental library and take up their position quietly at the end of the shelf; but when you go to look at them again they’re rather larger, and in the middle, as if they’d always been there. I read Mother’s Milk with equal pleasure; then came At Last, which concludes the Melrose sequence and is just as compelling.

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