Brel, A Campaigner and a Review

Here’s a thing: I have a soft spot for Alastair Campbell. You know, the man who engineered Tony Blair’s rise and years in power. The spin doctor’s spin doctor. And I don’t mean what he did in those years (although you have to admire a man who’s so good at his job, even if you don’t agree with what he did.)

But since he resigned from the formal world of politics he’s been more active in his other roles – he’s still engaged with politics, writes a lot, runs even more, and does a lot of work for charity. It’s this last bit which interests me most, as he champions the work of mental health charities to remove some of the taboos about mental health issues. Having worked for MIND myself, and taught in various locations and at varying academic levels, it’s a topic which is dear to me – we see so many vulnerable, often desperate people, who cannot get the help they need. Speaking out loud is one way we can try to change this, and Mr. Campbell does so, very loudly indeed. You can read more on his blog, particularly a letter he received from a student who tries to use writing as a way to express herself, the way we all do: click here.

And personally, it’s his love too for Jacques Brel which strikes home with me. He made a radio show about Brel a few years ago which has always stuck in my mind, so much so that I sent him a copy of the novel to see if he’d like the way that Lucy sees Brel. He was, I’m delighted to say, not only keen to read it but also happy to review it, and here are his thoughts:

Words cover“I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, especially the use of Jacques Brel’s passion and desperation to communicate as an expression of Lucy’s all-encompassing need to speak and be heard amid the white noise of her life and relationships. There are a number of complex and entwining themes that will keep you interested and which reward the reader page after page, and the plot is unconventional and therefore doesn’t let you down. Highly recommended, even though personally I could have coped with yet more Brel in the story!”

Well, thanks Alastair. It’s an honour to have you read and like the book, and if I thought I could have got away with more of Jacques then I would have done. I’ll end with a quick plug for his own new book, Winners and How They Succeed, in which he explores what it is that makes people in all walks of life succeed.

Or, as Jacques would say, “Le talent, ça n’existe pas. Le talent, c’est d’avoir envie de faire quelque chose.”