She felt tainted and exhausted by a summer of burning up her moral resources for the sake of small conversational effects.
St. Aubyn's first novel--a series now of five, following the Melrose family and a swamp of noisome parasites and lumbering predators in the late twentieth/Cretaceous era of British wealth--steers with wicked confidence toward the same crushing dissipated cynicism noted, with concern, by the novel's one vaguely-heroic character above. (She wonders about her complicity here, just after incisively dismissing the self-pitying invocation of the-troubles-he-done-seen by another character: "Being found in bed with two girls isn't the shower room in Auschwitz.") The sheer, glorious viciousness--of each to each, as well as in the narrative's frequent corrosive observations--can provoke a gasp, a laugh shadowed by revulsion.
The particularity of the style has been--rightly--lauded by many, including a recent rave by James Wood that led me to the books. And comparisons to Waugh, Martin Amis, or Jonathan Coe's Winshawes are maybe enough to sell you, too. The novel is as funny as it is nasty, as beautifully written as it is brutal.
Yet it avoids, with equal confidence and ambition, the comforts of a purer cruelty; it is equally, contrarily intent on capturing and conveying the pain and rage of these characters, particularly (here still very young) Patrick Melrose. It is intensely moving--right before the razor slices, the tail of the whip scours. And again right after. Very impressive.