Did you know that Winston Churchill suffered from depression? Author Rebecca Hunt very cleverly uses this bit of information to create a literary character out of Winston Churchill's real life & well known depression which he affectionately referred to as The Black Dog. Depression is personified as a BIG black dog, who calls himself Black Pat, that can talk and has meaningful conversations with both Churchill, who is soon to retire from Parliament and is suffering with the decision and Esther Hammerhans, a young librarian in the House of Commons, who has advertised for a lodger, and gets Black Pat answering her notice.
Black Pat claims he is in need of a room, close to work. But once "Black Pat" moves in, Esther can't help but wonder if he is coming to stay with her for another reason. You see Esther lost her dear husband almost a year ago, and as the anniversary of his death nears, Esther can feel the pull of Black Pat. There's something enticing about him, at the same time revolting. And he can be so charming when he wants to be...
"Let me stay."A heavy uncertain stare from Esther. Above the orange light and the chaos of the kitchen grew a thin sadness, the empty sadness of a dying relationship. Here it was unstoppably. Black Pat fawned his chops against the wall with a moan.Esther said, "Sorry?"That old Romeo, what he said next was shameless. He said it slowly and full of clues. "If you let me love you it will be the longest love of your life."
The book is quirky, fun and Rebecca Hunt does a clever job of representing depression as a living breathing ugly creature. In her dialogue between the characters she plays with the subtleties of real depression, in a quiet respectful way. The characters are "proper English subjects", keeping a stiff upper lip even in the throws of trouble, keeping their emotions in check until lured into conversation with Black Pat, who is also Mr. Chartwell, which is a reference to Winston Churchill's home which was called Chartwell. Mr. Churchill is believable as a stoic leader, quietly suffering. And Esther is also believable as a proper English widow. When the story lines of Winston Churchill and the "proper" English librarian finally meet, it is with some unexpected and wonderful twists. Black Pat eventually reveals his real relationship with his "clients" as well.
I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't the kind of book where you are turning the pages as fast as you can, but the kind of book that you sit down to read in a big comfy chair, with a steaming cup of tea for company. I loved Esther, who is demure, but finally comes through at the end to show she's got real spunk! But all the characters are memorable. And Rebecca Hunt's writing is wonderful.
I highly recommend Mr. Chartwell to anyone who enjoys literary fiction. This would also make a perfect Reading Group choice, as it really is rich with the meat of good conversation. I want to thank the folks at Random House & The Dial Press for sending along a copy of Mr. Chartwell for review! I can see this being a favorite read.
Mr. Chartwell will be available from your local bookstore Feb. 8th! *P.S. This book will be Kindle Ready!