A couple of weeks ago I ranted on about what not to read, namely 50 Shades of Drivel. Meaningless, humourless, trite, sentimental and badly written. I have just finished a book that is the exact opposite and I urge you all to read it.
I am not the only person to love the author of this novel; he has been compared by critics to Wilde, Wodehouse and Waugh. But for some reason he is not well known and his books have yet to be turned into films or become huge best-sellers. He is an English writer called Edward St Aubyn and is probably best known for his Booker nominated novel Mother’s Milk. I have just finished the first book in what has become known as the ‘Patrick Melrose novels’, called Never Mind.
Rupert got me on to him. I have never seen him devour a series of books so quickly, or read so many choice bits out to me.”He’s as brilliant as Martin Amis wishes he was,” he told me.
Never Mind is not an easy read; it is terribly cruel and quite disturbing. But it is hysterically funny at the same time. The characters are not really the sort of people you would want to meet, but they are compelling, brilliantly believable and terribly amusing. I suppose the book is a little like a Cold Comfort Farm on steroids; sharper, wittier, more cruel and ultimately more memorable.
Here is one of my favourite quotes from the book, one of the main characters talking about her French neighbours: “Eleanor was intrigued by these people. She imagined their austere and fruitful life like a stained-glass window in a medieval church – labourers in the vineyard with grape-filled baskets on their backs. She had seen one of the Fauberts in the Credit Agricole and he had the sullen air of a man who looks forward to strangling poultry.”
I am about to start on the second novel and can’t wait. And once I have finished them all, I am going to go back and read Never Mind again, in the hope that some of St Aubyn’s wit and brilliance rubs off on me.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2012