Long Lost Family - that TV programme where people trace their lost parents, children, siblings, which always makes me weep - is among my viewing favourites. Whenever it comes on, I can be heard commenting how much I love
that “nice” Nicky Campbell.
So imagine my shock to read the first sentence in “Blue-Eyed Son, the story of an adoption”: “I was committing
adultery in Room 634 of the Holiday Inn in Birmingham when my wife rang to say they’d found my mother.” Cue crashing sound of wholesome reputation hitting the ground.
Yet, in many ways that opening sentence simply heralded this brutally honest account of how Nicky Campbell traced first his birth mother, then his natural father - and the many mistakes he made along the way, hurting his adopted family and the half-sister
he grew close to, by thinking to protect them from all knowledge of his covert investigations.
Mr B is also an adopted child so this is just the kind of book we
love to read together, providing many opportunities to compare the writer’s voyage of discovery and the feelings it aroused in him with Mr B’s own, sometimes rocky, sometimes joyful, journey.
In Nicky Campbell’s case, it was his natural father he came to feel closer to than his mother - but at the same time it was the discovery of his birth family’s IRA roots that brought him face to face with the uncomfortable
realisation of the completely opposite views held by his two different families. The affection he feels for his adopted father, who died before he began his search, made the comparisons even more painful.
The chapters exploring the Irish roots of his birth family are engrossing though, for me, it was the developing relationship between Nicky and his sisters - by adoption, by birth - that I found most interesting. The interspersing
of first-hand accounts by his half-sister, Esther, added to the overall picture of a man on a mission.
Reading the book made me realise that Nicky Campbell
is probably the perfect presenter for Long Lost Family because he knows at first hand the pitfalls as well as the pleasures of tracing a lost family.
(almost) forgiven him the adultery because at least he was honest about it...