I wonder what it might have been like to read these four novels over the space of some twenty years, as they were written, rather than in a couple of weeks -- essentially as one long novel? I shall never know, of course. This collection was published at the release of the final installment of the Patrick Melrose Story -- AT LAST. NEVER MIND is the first book in this wildly ambitious, utterly successful series. It takes place over the course of a twenty-four hour period in which the Oh-so-veddy-uppercrust wee Patrick is five years old, and sexually abused by his narcissistic, savagely cruel father. In MOTHER'S MILK, Patrick is 22, and (perhaps not surprisingly) a drug addict heading to NYC to retrieve his father's corpse. The bleakest and perhaps most interior of the novels, it covers a drug-fueled weekend in Manhattan, wherein our hero searches for drugs and behaves rather badly, but not as badly as you might expect, given his family life. Eight years later, SOME HOPE finds Patrick attempting to recover from his addictions and confronting his horrific personal history. In the last of the four book, MOTHER'S MILK, Patrick is married, although with only mild happiness, and the father of two boys, Robert, and the younger Thomas. In this work, Patrick's mother, who appeared in the first novel as an alarmingly subservient mess of neuroses, has turned into a New Age manipulator intent on betraying her son once again by turning over the family estate to an Irish-hippy con artist. The weight of these novels likes not so much in the events themselves -- but in the internal journey of the characters, centering of course on Patrick. St. Aubyn has admitted that writing them has been a form of therapy and contains large elements of autobiography, although he did not admit the sexual abuse was based on personal experience until years after the first novel was published.. But let's be clear, this is not memoir. It is fictional art of the highest order. The voice is one of the most scathingly witty I've read in years. I couldn't help but think of Oscar Wilde. It is the humor which lifts the book out of the morass of derelict novels out there. Intelligence is burned into every page. No one is spared, not the British 'aristocracy' (whatever that means these days), not the narrator or any other character, not the Americans. . . everyone who appears in these novels is eviscerated, and yet I found them all, in spite of being pedophiles, drug addicts, narcissists and upper class twits -- utterly fascinating. St. Aubyn is concerned with consciousness and he is a master at revealing it. (Jane Gardam does the same thing, with less squalor and with a gentler wit, but they echo each other in many ways. I can't think of a North American writer that does this so well.) I can't wait to read AT LAST, and will be very sorry, I'm sure, when it ends.