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Issue 103 - Mother's Milk

Whisky Magazine Issue 103
April 2012


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Mother's Milk

Jefferson Chase revels in a tale of bizarre ordinary lives

Some books grab you with unusual characters doing remarkable things in extreme situations; others, by revealing just how bizarre ordinary lives are. Edward St Aubyn's 2006 novel Mother's Milk is a fine example of the latter.

Though narrated from multiple perspectives, the main story revolves around 40-something English lawyer Patrick Melrose's struggles to be both a father and a son within a passionless marriage. Mundane as that may sound, St Aubyn wrings a huge amount of humour, and pathos, from this dilemma.

The chapter in which Patrick confronts his growing alcohol consumption reveals in a nutshell what's so good about this novel.

Marooned on a US vacation among relatives he detests, our hero decides to take the edge off with an afternoon nip: Patrick walked over to the drinks tray and, so as not to leave a dirty glass, drank several gulps of bourbon from a bottle of Maker's Mark. He sank back into an armchair and stared out of the window. The impenetrable New England countryside looked pretty enough, but was in fact packed with more dangers than a Cambodian swamp.

Specifically, Patrick is thinking of Lyme disease, but his sense of dread goes much further.

To his horror, he discovers he has made a conspicuous dent in the bottle. Inebriated logic dictates that the only solution is to procure a replacement before his wife and relatives register his anti-social drinking. There's just one flaw in the plan: He would, of course, have to make convincing inroads into the new ...

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