All in the Mind

Alastair Campbell, Author . Overlook $25.95 (297p) ISBN 978-1-59020-224-1

Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spokesman and director of communications and strategy, has crafted a skillful and compelling debut novel about Martin Sturrock, a psychiatrist whose simmering meltdown informs him that he may be in need of treatment of his own. The novel weaves together the stories of Sturrock’s patients—a woman victimized by sex traffickers, a philandering lawyer, an alcoholic MP, a depressed factory worker, an Albanian refugee raped during a home invasion—on the streets of contemporary multicultural London. With their many flaws, Campbell’s characters are fully formed people—sharply observed and nicely nuanced—and while plenty of time is spent in sessions, no prescriptions are ever issued, keeping Campbell away from clumsy aphorisms or magic pill answers to the problems that ripple out into the patients’ (and shrink’s) families and the wider world around them. Interestingly, Campbell takes a few swipes at his former political life, depicting it as full of backstabbing treachery and cutthroat competition. Despite the sometimes brutal subject matter, the many moments of kindness and hope make this a strong first novel providing much catharsis in its own right. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/06/2009
Release date: 06/01/2009
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