Morbidly hilarious, terrifically damaged and sharp as a tack, Patrick Melrose is a product of the faded British aristocracy. A childhood destroyed by abuse at the hands of his vicious father and neglect by his overwhelmed mother leads him to drug addiction and despair. As Patrick struggles to put the pieces of his broken life together, he never loses his biting wit, or his heartfelt desire to spare his own children from the perils of their lineage.
Patrick's mother Eleanor is an American heiress of great wealth and weak character. Patrick's father married her to save his upper class family's fading fortunes. Although playful at times and with generally good intentions, her narcissism and ineffectiveness make her incapable of looking out for the well-being of her only child.
Sophisticated, elegant, brilliant, a thwarted doctor and gifted musician, Patrick's father David is also a temperamental, vengeful, sadistic beast, full of secret self-loathing. The abuse that Patrick suffers at his father's hands haunts him throughout his life. Yet David is also a perversely magnetic character, capable of great charm and wit, as well as a vicious tongue that renders David's contemporaries unable to stand up to him.
Patrick's wife Mary has many wonderful qualities She is a devoted mother with her children's best interest foremost in her mind at all times. She is also a surprisingly doting daughter-in-law to Eleanor, and is willing to love and stand by Patrick as he grapples with his addictions and inner demons. ‘More of a mother than my own mother,’ says Patrick, but there are limits to her devotion.
Patrick's wealthy American aunt is more of a social climber than her older sister Eleanor. Obsessed with money and status, Nancy is no help to Patrick in his quest to break from the poisonous atmosphere in which he was raised.
The American friend of Patrick's girlfriend is also an old crush of Patrick's. He tries to seduce her while on a serious bender in New York, but it does not go as planned.
Patrick's godfather and David's close friend, Nicholas Pratt is the poster child for what's wrong with the British upper class. Caustic, cynical and judgmental, Nicholas rarely has a good thing to say about anything or anybody, other than his friend David Melrose, whom he seems to fear as much as he enjoys.
Patrick has a long-time infatuation with Julia, even though they're never officially involved. Charming, sardonic and with a naughty, rebellious streak, Julia is probably more of a bad influence than a good one.
Patrick and his lifelong close friend Johnny share a lot in common – addiction, recovery, a woman… But Johnny is always there for Patrick when he needs him, no matter what.
As a young upwardly mobile woman, Bridget reluctantly visits Patrick's family home on the arm of Nicholas Pratt. Patrick meets up with her again much later as the unhappily married wife to an upper class man of great fortune.
An old American friend and ally of Patrick's, Anne is sharp enough to recognize the ugly truth about young Patrick's home life, but fails to do anything about it. She feels guilty about this forever afterwards.