"What impresses me more than the repulsive superstition that I should turn the other cheek, is the intense unhappiness my father lived with. I ran across a diary his mother wrote during the First World War. After pages of gossip and a long passage about how marvellously they'd managed to keep up the standards at some large country house, defying the Kaiser with the perfection of their cucumber sandwiches, there are two short sentences: 'Geoffrey wounded again,' about her husband in the trenches, and 'David has rickets,' about her son at his prep school. Presumably he was not just suffering from malnutrition, but being assaulted by paedophiliac schoolmasters and beaten by older boys. This very traditional combination of maternal coldness and official perversion helped to make him the splendid old man he turned into, but to forgive someone, one would have to be convinced that they'd made some effort to change the disastrous course that genetics, class, or upbringing proposed for them."
Another memorable moment, when Patrick thinks about his mother:
She had frustrated her husband by refusing to go to bed with him, but Patrick would be the last person to blame her for that. It would probably be better if women arrested in their own childhood didn't have children with tormented misogynist homosexual paedophiles, but nothing was perfect in this sublunary world, thought Patrick, glancing up devoutly at the moon which was of course hidden, like the rest of the sky during an English winter, by a low swab of dirty cloud. His mother was really a good person, but like almost everybody she had found her compass spinning in the magnetic field of intimacy.
-While Patrick is having these deep thoughts, a party is taking place. Someone rich has invited Princess Margaret for dinner. A group of somewhat interchangeable rich people fawn over Princess Margaret ("PM"). Someone accidentally spills gravy on PM, and PM requires the man to dab the juice off her gauzy dress. Everyone behaves badly. Everyone simpers before the Princess--and everyone believes he is putting on a beautiful performance, worthy of congratulation. Many are cruel to the one child on the periphery, a girl named Belinda, and to her nanny. The nanny herself is quite cruel to Belinda, even when in the presence of her employers (though she imagines that the employers love her and respect the work she is doing). The nanny's employers--who are quite wealthy--feel that she, the nanny, costs "a bomb."
-St. Aubyn's themes are: power, abuse, damage, insecurity...
-It's fun for me to read this, and I'm often wondering: How did St. Aubyn make the leap from half-dead-and-addicted-to-heroin to celebrated-author-of-several-widely-acclaimed-novels? Did he always suspect that this would happen? Was the writing very serious and focused from Day One--or were there relapses, abandoned efforts, months of despair?