Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt

Winston Churchill was the greatest statesman of the twentieth century and certainly belongs in the pantheon of the greatest leaders of all time. His leadership saved England and the free world. 

One of the lesser known facts about Churchill is that he suffered from depression. He called his depression his "Black Dog" and often wrote about visits from the Black Dog.  In the new novel, Mr. Chartwell,  first time novelist Rebecca Hunt presents the intriguing idea of incarnating Churchill's depression as a black dog named Black Pat

The novel is set in July 1964 on the eve of Churchill's retirement from Parliament.  Black Pat, a six foot black dog, visits Churchill, lays across him literally to weigh him down, chews rocks to annoy Churchill and engages in other assorted slobberingly doggish and childish behavior.  Black Pat also attacks a young widow, Esther, who rents a room in her home to him.  She too must battle with Black Pat.

Part of what made Churchill so famous was his use of language.  He was famous for his sharp quips (Lady Astor: "If I were married to you, I'd put poison in your coffee." Churchill: "If I were married to you, I'd drink it."), his inspiring speeches (see below) and his mastery of language (see forthcoming post on Churchill works and bios).  Take away the cigars, the house (named Chartwell), and several other details about setting, and Hunt's Churchill is no more than a cantankerous old man. 

Recommendation: I'd recommend passing on this novel. While the writing is good and the concept was interesting, the execution lacked.  Embodying depression as an annoying dog did not work.  Also, without Churchill's distinct and powerful voice, the novel missed the mark.

Other Reviews:
Follow the Thread, Lovely Treez Reads, and Chick With Books.

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