Mother’s Milk, Patrick Melrose 4 – Edward St. Aubyn

Mother’s Milk is the fourth and most famous book in the Patrick Melrose series because it was released long after the first three books and is nominated for the Man Booker Prize. Even though it did not win the award (the author is sincerely happy for not winning it), it has caused this series to be read more. However, despite all that, I wouldn’t say I liked this book very much.


Mother’s Milk is so different from the first three books that I suddenly questioned whether I had read the same series. Patrick is now a father of two and his mother, Eleanor, is on her deathbed. However, her last move before she dies is to bequeath Patrick’s house in France, where he spent his childhood and wishes his children to have a good childhood, to a made-up shaman named Seamus.

Mother's Milk, Patrick Melrose 4 – Edward St. Aubyn

After all that Patrick went through, this last thing his mother did, frankly, made me nervous as a reader. But at its core, the book examines children and their relationships with their mothers. Do you think that what kind of mother you have affects what kind of mother you will be? In this book, you will see how mothers change one by one and become different mothers when it comes to children. I couldn’t enjoy this book because the author changed his style and the subject he dealt with, but I’m sure parents will readMother’s Milk with very different perceptions and love.

Other books in the Patrick Melrose Series

  1. Never Mind
  2. Bad News
  3. Some Hope
  4. Mother’s Milk
  5. At Last
Mother's Milk, Patrick Melrose 4 – Edward St. Aubyn

Mother’s Milk, Patrick Melrose 4

Mother’s Milk, Patrick Melrose 4: THE FOURTH PATRICK MELROSE NOVEL The once illustrious, once wealthy Melroses are in peril. Caught up in the wreckage of broken promises, child-rearing, adultery and assisted suicide, Patrick finds his wife Mary consumed by motherhood, his mother in thrall to a New Age foundation, and his young son Robert understanding far more than he should. But even as the family struggles against the pull of its ever-present past, a new generation brings a new tenderness, and the possibility of change.

Edward St. Aubyn

Edward St Aubyn (born 14 January 1960) is an English author and journalist. He is the author of eight novels, including notably the semi-autobiographical Patrick Melrose novels. In 2006, Mother’s Milk was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Edward St Aubyn was born in 1960 in London, England, into an upper-class family. He is the son of Roger Geoffrey St Aubyn (1906–1985), a former soldier and a surgeon, and his second wife, Lorna Mackintosh (1929–2005). On his paternal side, he is a great-great grandson of Sir Edward St Aubyn, 1st Baronet, and great-nephew of The 1st Baron St Levan.

On his maternal side, he is a grandson of Captain Alastair William Mackintosh of the Seaforth Highlanders (briefly married to Constance Talmadge 1926–1927), and Lela Emery (later Duchess of Talleyrand). Through the latter he is a great-grandson of American businessman John Josiah Emery, Sr., and a great-nephew of John J. Emery, Jr. and Audrey Emery (wife of Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia).

His father was first married to Sophie Helene Freifrau von Puthon of Schloss Mirabell in Salzburg, whom he divorced in 1957. St Aubyn has two half-sisters by his father’s first marriage, and an elder sister, Alexandra. He grew up in London and France, where his family had houses. He has described an unhappy childhood in which he was repeatedly raped by his sexually abusive father from the ages of 5 to 8, with the complicity of his mother.

St Aubyn attended Westminster School and in 1979 went on to read English at Keble College, Oxford. Although at the time a heroin addict, he graduated, but with a pass, the lowest possible class of degree. He entered psychotherapy at the age of 25 and subsequently became a professional writer.

From 1987 to 1990, he was married to the author Nicola Shulman, now The Marchioness of Normanby. St Aubyn has a son, Lucian St Aubyn, by Jane Longman, daughter of Lady Elizabeth Longman and Mark Longman, and a daughter, Eleanor St Aubyn by another previous relationship, and lives in London.

Five of St Aubyn’s novels, Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother’s Milk, and At Last, form The Patrick Melrose Novels, the first four of which were republished in a single volume in 2012, in anticipation of the fifth. They are based on the author’s own life, growing up in a highly dysfunctional upper-class English family, dealing with abuse at the hands of his father, the deaths of both parents, alcoholism, heroin addiction and recovery, and marriage and parenthood.

The books have been hailed as a powerful exploration of how emotional health can be carved out of childhood adversity. Mother’s Milk was made into a feature film released in 2011. The screenplay was written by St Aubyn and director Gerald Fox. It stars Jack Davenport, Adrian Dunbar, Diana Quick, and Margaret Tyzack in her last performance.

In 2018 a five-part television series, Patrick Melrose was broadcast, a joint production of Showtime and Sky Atlantic. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Patrick Melrose (with the young Patrick played by Sebastian Maltz), with each episode based on a different novel in the series. The series premiered on Showtime on 12 May 2018 to favourable reviews.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Read Around the World, A Great Journey

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