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Mr. Chartwell: A Novel Hardcover – February 8, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

A Letter from Author Rebecca Hunt

© Angus Muir
The central premise of Mr. Chartwell is that Winston Churchill’s ‘black dog’ of depression is imagined as an independent character, free to walk, talk, and stalk others as he did with Churchill. The book follows the charismatic but menacing black dog--called Mr. Chartwell, but known as Black Pat by his closer acquaintances--as he weaves his devious influence into the lives of Churchill and Esther Hammerhans, a young widow. In different ways, both Esther and Churchill are approaching the end of deeply significant relationships, and the dog arrives to plague them as they face their challenges.

Depression is an intensely personal affliction, and I felt personifying it as Black Pat provided me with an opportunity to translate the emotions of the characters affected by his presence as dialogue, engaging them in conversation about their situations. It may be an unusual way to broach such a difficult topic, but I was immediately struck by the possibilities this opened up to me. There is no such thing as a definitive description of depression, I believe it varies with the individual, but I wanted to create a version of depression which was honest and true to my personal understanding of it. Using the dark and dynamic character of Mr. Chartwell gave me a vehicle to explore Churchill and Esther’s circumstances in greater detail, and in many ways, with a more accessible expression of the sensitivity I felt towards the subject and characters.

I was also struck by how perfectly the ‘black dog’ description can be used to capture the nature of depression. It takes the typical characteristics of a dog--the loyalty and attachment, along with the predatory and instinctual aspects--and converts them into something corruptive. This dog takes the image of man’s best friend and reverses it, becoming a jealously devoted companion who works against you from within you. However, for all this, Mr Chartwell isn’t just a book about depression. It is equally about redemption, courage and love. And, for me, it is predominantly and most importantly about hope.

From Publishers Weekly

In her sad, hopeful and very original debut, Hunt examines two battles with depression, one that has already been lost and one where there is still a possibility of winning. The story follows the parallel lives of a lonely young London librarian, Esther Hammerhans, and the celebrated statesman, Winston Churchill, during the days before he retires in July of 1964. Esther, whose husband committed suicide two years earlier, is renting out the spare room in her home, but when she opens the door to her new tenant, Mr. Chartwell, she finds herself face to face with a huge talking, upright walking, black dog. Esther soon learns that when Chartwell (aka Black Pat) leaves the house, it is to pay regular visits to Churchill and psychologically torture him, which he has been doing for years. Chartwell is no mere talking dog; he is a dark, lingering presence that has come to try to torment Esther into depression, much like he did her late husband. Taking a hard look at the demons that haunt people, Hunt's story is an clever illumination of the suffering of so many, their status on the social scale offering no protection. (Feb.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400069408
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400069408
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,237,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Susan K. Schoonover VINE VOICE on January 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The new novel MR CHARTWELL is simply remarkable! Author Rebecca Hunt takes an ambitious risk in giving literal life to the depressive states that stalked world leader Winston Churchill throughout his life. He called these depressive episodes his "Black Dog". Writing a novel with such a premise could have been a disaster but Hunt does such a skilled job that the short novel is eye-opening and inspirational

The book takes place over a six day period in the summer of 1964 as Churchill prepared to exit the British Parliament for the final time at the age of eighty-nine. Hunt brings the aged leader and the time and setting vibrantly to life as Churchill again wrestles with his "Black Dog" who in this imagining is a huge talking black canine who calls himself "Black Pat" Chartwell. Black Pat exhibits the more unsavory habits of dogs (such as bone chomping and other messy eating habits) along with a cunning intelligence that leads his victims in to the abyss of depression. In his own words there is a reason he is an animal "a dog with the hunger of a dog and I am compelled by it."

Churchill is not Black Pat's only interest. We are introduced to a pretty young widow named Esther who unwisely rents room in her home to the black beast just when she is at her most vulnerable. Helped by caring friends and a revealing encounter with the great Churchill himself it looks like she will be able to break free of the dark demon.

Many who have depression or other mental issues that impinge on their happiness and productivity will identify with the characters in MR. CHARTWELL.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jody TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Esther Hammerhans has been a widow for two years and is currently a librarian in Westminster. She hides in corners to escape notice and has just taken the brave step of furnishing her dead husband's study to rent to a lodger. The only prospective tenant is an enormous and messy dog named Mr. Chartwell, who offers her an astronomical sum for a short term rental. She objects, but he insists on renting the room, and promptly makes himself (most uncomfortably for her) at home. It turns out that the attraction of Esther's room is that it's only a fifty-minute commute to Chartwell, Winston Churchill's country home. The year is 1964 and Churchill is only a few days from retiring from Parliament.

Black Pat, as Mr. Chartwell is more familiarly known, is quite the humorist and fond of amusing wordplay. He does have a dark side; he's the embodiment of Churchill's lifelong depression--literally his bete noire--and, permanently ensconced in Churchill's life, has designs on Esther's. Esther, suffering from survivor's guilt after her husband's suicide, is a prime target for Black Pat, but Fate takes a hand with a little nudge from her martinet boss at the library and the support of her friends Beth, Oliver and Corkbowl as well as an intervention from the Great Man himself. Esther is required to go to Chartwell to transcribe Churchill's retirement speech. Esther's little group of champions rallies round to steel her for the ordeal and what transpires is an absolute delight. This is a book that begins with an unlikely premise and some doubt as to whether or not Ms. Hunt can pull it off, but ends with the realization that this is an unusually lovely story with a perfect ending.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Rebecca Hunt's `Mr. Chartwell' begins with an original premise, storyline and even some strange turn of phrases; describing an "animal skin of mist" and sometimes some overwrought descriptive passages-"hysterical clouds of steam". Some phrasing such as" in the hospital of his bed" might leave one wondering what picture she is exactly trying to convey. There is, in many instances a huge amount of description. For example; a paragraph telling about a friend, Beth sitting, uses 7 out of the 10 sentences to tell what the room divider behind her looked like, what it held, what the shelf behind her had on it and that near her was "perhaps a lama or a goat with a raffia tail", none of which really pertains to the story line, which at times, even if you like to be able to picture a scene, it just begs to "get on with it".

We are left until the later part of the book to find out what has happened to one of the main character, Esther's husband. It does create some interesting suspense as we gradually realize what this story is trying to tell us, although reading the Dear Friend letter in the beginning helps. I do wish there was a reason given why Mr. Chartwell just doesn't stay at Chartwell, other than there would not be a story.
There is much of the novel filled with whys?, but it is still strangely intriguing - trying to describe depression can be strange, in a way, this novel captures the essence.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Echo Hill Ranch on March 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a psychotherapist, I have often used Winston Churchill's metaphore to describe the experience of depression to those suffering from it. If depression is long standing it morphs into, at best "normal" and at worst a secret sence of inner moral deformity. To begin to separate depression from the true "self" is the begining of triumph over this mood disorder. In therapy, I have talked about turning toward the black rather then running from it, with the goal of eventually training or even taming the beast.

Mr. Chartwell is a marvelous and totally original narrative of the relationship that those that suffer from depression have with the illness. Black Pat is portrayed as brilliantly seductive.......that voice in ones head that, with deep determination, distorts reality at every turn. Black Pat, the jealous stalker, seeks relentlessly to be the one and only who deserves the company of it's victims thus the isolation that depression imposses is the black dog's mark of victory.

With the kind of brilliance that the Holocust movie, It's a Beautiful Life, contained, Patricia Hunt creates a delightful tale about a dark and tragic disease that kills and disfigures it's victims............ and the reader is left feeling truly fortunate that this story was told.
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