Synopsis: Twenty-two years old and in the grip of a massive addiction, Patrick Melrose is forced to fly to New York to collect his father’s ashes. Over the course of a weekend, Patrick’s remorseless search for drugs on the avenues of Manhattan, haunted by old acquaintances and insistent inner voices, sends him into a nightmarish spiral. Alone in his room at the Pierre Hotel, he pushes body and mind to the very edge – desperate always to stay one step ahead of his rapidly encroaching past.
Title: Bad News (Book 2 in the Patrick Melrose Novels)
Author: Edward St. Aubyn
I first encountered the first of the Patrick Melrose novels for a book club read. After reading the truly horrific and awful account of Patrick’s childhood, I went and bought the entire collection … Blame the twisted and masochistic part of me that needed to know what happened next.
Seventeen years after the events of Never Mind, we catch up with Patrick in his twenties. He is a drug addict whose body is ‘a battleground strewn with the carnage of internarcotic wars’. The ‘bad news’ of the title is that Patrick’s father has died, and the novel describes three days in Patrick’s chaotic life as he travels to New York to collect his father’s ashes.
Bad News is hauntingly powerful. Peopled by largely unpleasant characters, this novel will make you angry yet compelled to read more. The characterization is on point; the prose a mix of melancholy and comedy that takes a true talent to master.
The novel contains less cruelty than Never Mind, yet the unflinching descriptions of Patrick’s drug addiction make it just as difficult to read. The best part of the book is St. Aubyn’s depiction of Patrick in the throes of a drug fix; the episodes of hallucination were breath-taking, hypnotic, and more than a little entertaining.
The only way to describe Bad News is as a bleak but brilliant novel that everyone should read at least once.