Alastair Campbell’s powerful first novel is a gripping portrait of the strange dependency between patient and doctor.
Martin Sturrock desperately needs a psychiatrist. The problem? He is one.
Emily is a traumatized burn victim; Arta a Kosovan refugee recovering from a rape. David Temple is a long term depressive, while the Rt. Hon. Ralph Hall MP lives in terror of his drinking problem being exposed. Very different Londoners, but they share one thing: every week they spend an hour at the Prince Regent Hospital, revealing the secrets of their psyche to Professor Martin Sturrock. Little do they know that Sturrock’s own mind is not the reassuring place they believe it to be. For years he has hidden in his work, ignoring his demons. But now his life is falling apart, and as his ghosts come back to haunt him, the only person he can turn to is a patient.
Set over a life-changing weekend, Alastair Campbell’s astonishing first novel is both a comedy and tragedy of ordinary lives. It is rich in compassion for those whose days are spent on the edge of the abyss.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Alastair Campbell worked for Tony Blair when he became leader of the Labour Party, first as press secretary, than as official spokesman from 1994 to 2003.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Edward Schwarzschild Alastair Campbell, a former journalist who served as Tony Blair's press secretary, has proved himself a master of political imagemaking in the tradition of James Carville. His diary provided the material for his well-received first book, "The Blair Years" (2007). That book's success derived in part from Campbell's ability to make Blair, Gordon Brown, George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin and others seem less like pasteboard leaders and more like living, breathing (and frequently cursing) human beings. Unfortunately, that liveliness is not on display in Campbell's debut novel, "All in the Mind." The story begins with Professor Martin Sturrock, "widely viewed as one of the best psychiatrists in the business," worrying that he might be about to plunge into despair. It's a compelling premise: What happens when a famous psychiatrist confronts his own breakdown? All too quickly, however, suspense evaporates, and potentially interesting characters -- Sturrock's clients include a burn victim, a Kosovan refugee, a self-diagnosed sex addict and an alcoholic politician -- become subservient to a rather simplistic message. The events of the novel unfold over four days, during which each client experiences a therapeutic revelation. It's as if they've simultaneously found themselves in a climactic episode of "In Treatment." The burn victim realizes her beauty when she contemplates a package of raisins. The adulterer learns to take carnal satisfaction from bike riding. The Kosovan refugee forgives her rapist. Meanwhile, the psychiatrist, oblivious to this incredible string of breakthroughs, descends deeper into madness. In an essay last year in the Times of London, Campbell claimed to have enjoyed working on fiction more than anything else he's done since leaving No. 10. "It is in many ways the control freak's dream job," he said. "You control everything, including the scenes where everything is out of control." Such a sentiment speaks directly to the pitfalls of negotiating the vastly different tasks of spin-doctoring and novel-writing. Which returns us to the book's simplistic, albeit compassionate, message. Near the end, when the alcoholic politician, now humbled, stands before a crowd, preaching "for greater understanding of the pressures on those who handle pressures on our behalf," we wonder if we're reading an appendix to "The Blair Years." Professor Sturrock has been by this point almost literally thrown under the bus, but the message is, alas, still under tight control.
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Hutchinson, 2008. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 91925789