How clever, describing a birth from the point of view of the person birthed. That's how Edward St. Aubyn launches Mother's Milk.
Little Robert remembers the heartache of separation from his mother. The world outside is bright and garish. He had thought it would be like a big ocean, as comfy and warm as the nest from which he just came. He might rather go back to that nest, except that getting out of it was such a violent experience.
St. Aubyn hooked me right away, but now our birthed boy has got himself a little brother who just lays there absorbing all of Mummy and Daddy's attention. So Robert works hard at being funny, doing things like mimicking the self-important nursemaid, just to regain all that parental attention.
It's charming, but I don't know what to make of it all. Will we find out that the witty father is a ne'r-do-well, something like Emma Thompson's Daddy in Saving Mr. Banks? And there's no heft to this thing, since I'm reading it on Kindle. I can't tell how much longer the journey is, in spite of the little fine-print hints that show at the bottom of the page.
Actually, it's a four-book package, The Patrick Melrose Novels. Mother's Milk is the last of the bunch.
Other Amazon buyers tell me that they lost much-needed sleep because they couldn't pull away from Melrose. Now that they have finished all four books, saying good-bye to the characters rips out the hearts of these readers. The stories aren't for the faint-hearted, they say, but so, so worth it.
I guess I need to go back to the beginning link in this chain of stories. After all, do we hop on airplanes while they cruise a mile above the air? Do we elbow past Do-Re-Mi, the better to get on with Fa-So-La? Do we start raising kids from age 14?
And yes, I gave up on Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables. The charcoal illustration on the front cover was, I presume, Hawthorne's face. His eyes taunted me every time I walked by. Are you not woman enough to find meaning in my classic tale?
And did I give the book a little extra shove when I dropped it in the library's return bin? Kinda. I can't have a blog about books and tell readers, week after week, "I choked down four more pages this week. Please stick with me while I bore you as much as Mr. Wordy-Books bores me."
I swallowed my Hawthorne guilt with a serving of:
Italian Bow Tie Bake
Even our preschool picky eater ate this. The little guy was thrilled that we finally let him have a table knife, and he set about cutting up the bow ties and chowing them down.