Milk features the same family that Edward St. Aubyn introduced
in his acclaimed trilogy Some
Hope. It is a hilarious satire on the family and human relationships.
story opens with the older Melrose son, Robert, narrating his own
birth. This is reminiscent of the opening pages of Kate Atkinson's
the Scenes at the Museum, and it works equally as well, but
in a different way. Robert is wise beyond his years, but pitiful
as well as he bemoans the lack of closeness and comfort he so recently
had in his mother's womb. As Robert grows older, he reminds one
of the malevolently precocious Marmaduke from Martin Amis' London
Fields, who goes from ailing helpless infant to an alarmingly
knowing terror overnight (though Robert is less ill-willed):
the feverish grub of the old Marmaduke sprang a musclebound wunderkind,
clear-eyed, pink-tongued, and (it transpired) infallibly vicious.
The change was all very sudden. Guy and Hope went out one day,
leaving the usual gastroenteritic nightmare slobbering on the
kitchen floor; they returned after lunch to find Marmaduke strolling
round the drawing room with his hands in his pockets…”
brother, Thomas, is younger and quite devoted to his mother Mary.
He is also astonishingly self-aware, uttering comments such as “No
Mama, don't pick me up, it's really unbearable.” He is extremely
adept from a very early age at coming between his mother and father.
the mother, is exceptionally devoted to her two boys, to the complete
physical and mental exclusion of her husband, Patrick. He has a
volatile temper and a scathing tongue, and uses the distance that
is steadily growing between his family to fuel his speeches about
everything from marital relations to the war in Iraq .
novel spans three years in the family's lives and moves from England
to their ancestral home in France , where Patrick's mother is insisting
on donating the heap to her pet New Age charity, to America , for
a disastrous family holiday. The plot, though, is really secondary,
and that is not to say that this novel isn't a page turner. It is.
It is, however, the interpersonal relations of the family members
that enables St. Aubyn to display his acerbic wit and biting satirical
style. This is an amazing, inventive, hilarious novel – just don't
take it as the final word on familial relations!
had they pretended to kill him when he was born? Keeping him awake
for days, banging his head again and again against a closed cervix;
twisting the cord around his throat and throttling him; chomping
through his mother's abdomen with cold shears; clamping his head
and wrenching his neck from side to side; dragging him out of his
home and hitting him; shining lights in his eyes and doing experiments;
taking him away from his mother while she lay on the table, half-dead.
Maybe the idea was to destroy his nostalgia for the old world. First
the confinement to make him hungry for space, then pretending to
kill him so that he would be grateful for the space when he got
it, even this loud desert, with only the bandages of his mother's
arms to wrap around him, never the whole thing again, the whole
warm thing all around him, being everything.”