Novel of the week: Double Blind
Edward St Aubyn’s tenth novel set on a rewilded Sussex estate explores everything from childhood trauma to capitalism and science
Edward St Aubyn’s tenth novel, Double Blind, opens in a world of elegant privilege that readers of his “Patrick Melrose” novels will recognise, said Alex Preston in The Spectator. Thirty-something Francis works on a rewilded Sussex estate, where he surveys turtle doves and nightingales, and enjoys the magic mushrooms he harvests. His biologist girlfriend, Olivia, is having a tougher time: her best friend, Lucy, has just suffered a brain seizure. The plot is complex, and encompasses “epigenetics, rewilding, psychoanalysis and the placebo effect”, but St Aubyn manages to advance “clever ideas” without ever seeming “forced or showy”.
That wasn’t my experience, said John Self in The Times. This novel is “a turkey”, over-stuffed with discussions of childhood trauma, capitalism and science. In the Melrose novels, St Aubyn transformed his own traumatic experience into something “powerfully convincing”, said Katie Law in the London Evening Standard. But it has long been clear that he is “incapable of doing that with the lives of anyone else”; this “unsatisfactory story” confirms that conviction.
Harvill Secker 256pp £18.99; The Week Bookshop £14.99
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