At Last is the last (apparently) of a series of five novels carrying the life of Patrick Melrose through a rich, brutal childhood and a disastrously messy maturation to whatever point he has reached on the day of his mother’s funeral. This passage I fear does not do St Aubyn justice. Try the opening pages, a witty and horrible old friend of the family accosting Patrick on his entry into the funeral home; you’ll know whether this book is for you. (I was dazzled.)
(I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to see if the publisher had offered the first chapter, but I find that they did, so it’s linked now.)
Patrick is in the funeral home basement, inspecting the surroundings as well as viewing the body of his mother, Eleanor.
ELEANOR had expected to meet Jesus at the end of a tunnel after she died. The poor man was a slave to his fans, waiting to show crowds of eager dead the neon countryside that lay beyond the rebirth canal of earthly annihilation. It must be hard to be chosen as optimism’s Master Cliché, the Light at the End of the Tunnel, ruling over a glittering array of half-full glasses and silver-lined clouds.
Patrick let the curtains drop reluctantly, acknowledging that he had run out of distractions, He edged toward the coffin, like a man approaching a cliff. At least he knew that this coffin contained his mother’s corpse. Twenty years ago, when he had been to see his father’s remains in New York, he was shown into the wrong room.
At Last, Edward St. Aubyn, p 42.