Top positive review
My Name Is Review
on 13 May 2016
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.
This isn’t the sort of book I would normally read, but my Mum lent it to me after she has finished it, so I gave it a try. I think she read it mainly because of her interest in Alastair Campbell and his past involvement with alcohol, but I was just interested in the story.
I have mixed feelings about this book. Whilst it read well, and is written using an original and clever approach, I found I couldn’t really emote with the characters as much as I wanted to.
The book tells the story of Hannah, following from her birth through to about the age of eighteen, as she descends into alcoholism and depression. It is told through the viewpoints of various people in her life; her mother, her first boyfriend, her best friend etc. Each chapter is from a different viewpoint, and each person only gets only chapter to tell a small part of Hannah’s story. The multiple points of view Campbell uses to narrate the tale are, for me, both the book’s downfall and it’s strength. It makes it quite unique but, because we only visit each character once, it left me feeling that I’d never really got to know anyone. Particularly the main character, Hannah, as her own point of view is mainly only told through dialogue. It makes her feel a little distant and cold, as we rarely get to see inside her head and we only hear about the bad things she has done from other people. It doesn’t help you empathise with her, but maybe that was the point.
What the book does do well is explore the topic of alcoholism amongst youth, particularly young women, in Britain. Through his plethora of colourful characters, we gain a great perspective of alcoholism in today’s society, with thoughts from every part of the spectrum, from Hannah’s family to lawyers, nurses and psychologists, even through to a cleaning lady.
At times it does feel like Campbell is trying to ram the message down our throats a little, but he does make some interesting points. The chapter from the point of view of a TV journalist, for example, I found particularly interesting, as he finds his revealing expose on the ‘booze tsunami’ canned due to threats of cancelled advertising and sponsors. It indicated how much media may play a part in glamorising alcohol.
All in all, this is a clever, engaging story which does its bit to raise awareness of the dangers of alcohol amongst young people. However, if you’re looking for a gripping, emotional story with a focus on characters, I don’t think “My Name Is…” is it. What it is is an examination of the subject of alcoholism in the UK. And, be warned, this book is quite depressing, – at parts it feels almost hopeless. Give it a read if you’d like to find out more about the subject, but I wouldn’t recommend reading it over the Christmas period like I did!