At Last is another visit to the world of Patrick Melrose, the protagonist of five of Edward St Aubyn’s seven novels. Patrick’s youth, in which he was raped by his father, David, and later sought escape in heroin, was described in the Some Hope trilogy, published between 1992 and 1994. (For the benefit of the uninitiated, the trilogy draws on the author’s own experiences.) At the end of St Aubyn’s previous novel, Mother’s Milk (2006), it is 2003 and Patrick, having long since dissipated his income and now in early middle age, is a barrister with two children, a failing marriage to Mary, and a drink problem. His mother, Eleanor, adds to his woes by giving away the family’s French house to a charlatan new-age group.
The new novel is set just over eighteen months later, during a couple of hours on the day of Eleanor’s funeral, 9 April 2005 (also the date of Charles and Camilla’s wedding, as Eleanor’s sister Nancy complains: ‘Of all the days not to have a funeral … The