Jo Cox: More In Common, Book Review
There’s a scene in Brendan Cox’s book that will remain seared into my memory for as long as I live. It takes place the day after Jo was brutally murdered. Her husband Brendan is sitting with their two young children, Cuillin and Lejla, just hours after he’d told them Jo has been taken from them. The children are deeply distressed and traumatised. Brendan is close to collapsing under the crushing weight of his grief.
And then something extraordinary happens. Cuillin begins to sing a made-up song, ‘I love my Mumma’. His Dad and Lejla join in, and somehow Cullin’s Song For Jo helps them find some sort of release from the excruciating pain and anguish they’re feeling.
That tragic yet uplifting moment capture the essence of the book as Brendan takes us through Jo’s rollercoaster of a life, from Batley to Westminster, via Cambridge, Africa, Brussels, Oxford and New York, and in so doing takes his readers on an emotional rollercoaster.
He paints a warm picture of Jo: her zest for life; her straight-talking, no-bull**** Yorkshire ways; her ability to see compromise as a sign of strength; her deep, passionate love for her family and friends; her cheeky grin and quicksilver wit. And there’s no shortage of comedy: Jo was notoriously absent-minded, and I laughed out loud at tales of culinary disasters, or the time she forgot to bring her bike on a cycling holiday.
But Brendan also takes us on a startlingly intimate and moving journey into the darkness of his grief, conveying the visceral pain and sense of loss so directly that at times I was left gasping. He relives moments of deep hurt and anguish – the murder, taking the kids to see Jo’s body, the trial and funeral – with breath-taking honesty.
Throughout the book, one word kept coming to mind: resilience. Jo was a fighter. She fought for the poor and dispossessed of Africa, for the persecuted of Syria, for the people of her beloved Batley and Spen constituency; she fought against a life-threatening disease contracted in Chad, and against the group-think and tribalism that so often poison our politics and divide our communities.
Jo never gave up, and she never relented. And perhaps that is why I found Bendan’s description of Cuillin’s song for Jo so moving. For in Brendan, Cuillin and Lejla we see the torch that Jo lit, burning so brightly. We see Jo’s legacy, right there, in the little boy who saw his father’s devastation, and who reached out to save him with a song. I drew strength, gratitude and inspiration from Brendan’s account. Strength to believe that from the ashes of the horror perpetrated last year, something better will rise. Gratitude that I had the privilege of being able to call Jo Cox my friend. And inspiration from the heroism of Brendan, Jo’s sister Kim, her parents Gordon and Jean and all of the friends, family and communities who pulled together, resolute in the knowledge that we have far more in common than that which divides us.