The sins of the father

Rachel Cooke in The Guardian:

Milk_final Before I meet Edward St Aubyn, I swot up on him. Here are a few of the things that I read: that he wears too-tight tweed suits and green velvet smoking jackets; that he is facetious, arrogant and a terrible snob; that his manner is cold and his eyes like those of a ‘shark’; that his charm, wit and elegant sentences are reserved for close friends; that these friends include people with grand surnames of which I’m vaguely aware (Rothschilds, Guinnesses, Spencers) but am not smart enough to encounter at ‘weekend house parties’. And then, of course, there is the treacherous territory of the life from which he has, at Aubynbown64 least in part, hewn several novels. As a child, he was raped by his father. At 16, he was a spectacularly focused heroin addict. At 28, he decided that he would kill himself if he did not finish writing a novel. This is as forbidding a potted character analysis as any I have read.

Still, I was desperate to meet him. St Aubyn’s new novel, Mother’s Milk, is so good – so fantastically well-written, profound and humane – that all the other stuff, even the inhospitable biography, bleaches to grey beside it.

More here.