Alastair Campbell’s first novel All In The Mind, about a psychiatrist and his various lost patients, touched on the author’s emotional experiences of psychological breakdown, as did his 2008 memoir The Happy Depressive, which also dealt with his period of alcohol dependence. His third novel takes the subject of alcoholism again, and explores its development in a young woman called Hannah.
Hauntingly, most of the story is narrated through those characters close to her – her mother, brow-beaten by her continually unfaithful husband; her father, adoring but destructive; the child-minder who looked after Hannah and her sunnier little sister; Hannah’s swimming coach; teacher; first boyfriend, and so on.
Personal accounts are convincing and gradual changes of jobs/pupil demographics over time add authenticity. A picture emerges of a vulnerable girl growing up in a desperately unhappy home, with genes for addictive behaviour rife in her background, feeling protective about her sister, rejected by her beleaguered mother, and abandoned by her one strength, swimming, because state school kids don’t receive support. The tenacity Campbell brought to bear in politics is matched here by his gripping inhabitation of his characters. Stunning.