"Our greatest living prose stylist", so said the blurb and I can't help but feel publishers do authors no favours with such largesse.It puts any writer at a disadvantage,let alone one who has only written a handful of novels.
How high must I set the bar for this one?
Mother's Milk was an enjoyable but not for me a superlative read, as I followed Patrick's mid-life crisis over a period of several years through fatherhood, mistress-dom and an inheritance rapidly disappearing down the swanee as his ailing mother bequeaths the family silver to a very dodgy New Age set up.
The prose is without a doubt solid and at times striking, often stopping you dead and forcing you to read again to take it in (does that make it limpid? translucent? dense? the blurb said 'luminous and acidic') but it hasn't impressed me as a great read.
This may be down to something which was for me a huge flaw, perhaps it was intentional, out of the mouths of babes etc and I have missed Edward St Aubyn's master ploy, but I of all health visitors was bound to spot it and be very distracted.
Patrick and Mary have two of the most linguistically gifted children ever born unto man. But not only is their speech and language development way ahead of the game, which isn't unheard of, but their comprehension,thought processes and emotional development were likewise impossibly advanced for their tender years.If you have small children for goodness sake don't hold up Robert and Thomas as the benchmarks by which to judge their progress, you'll be losing sleep and begging for an immediate paediatric referral.
I know it's fiction and anything goes but this stretched the credulity of an otherwise firmly realistic novel.I just couldn't reconcile these children with the rest of the book at all which was a pity.
Elsewhere and particularly good was the portrayal of Patrick's mother Eleanor, post-stroke and conversely struggling to speak.Also how could I fail to identify with any parents of a child called Thomas who was prone to dashing out in front of cars, thus requiring a search for a good old fashioned set of leather reins?
Call a child after The Doubting One and expect him to have to check out everything for himself including "Don't run in the road, you'll get run over", forget reins, we needed the bit,bridle and halter to match.
But that aside if Mother's Milk makes the shortlist I will be delighted for Edward St Aubyn but let's see what the rest of the longlist holds before I offer it a place on mine.