July 1964. Chartwell House, Kent: Winston Churchill wakes at dawn. Theres a dark, mute presence in the room that focuses on him with rapt concentration.
Its Mr. Chartwell.
Soon after, in London, Esther Hammerhans, a librarian at the House of Commons, goes to answer the door to her new lodger. Through the glass she sees a vast silhouette the size of a mattress.
Its Mr. Chartwell.
Charismatic, dangerously seductive, Mr. Chartwell unites the eminent statesman at the end of his career and the vulnerable young woman. But can they withstand Mr. Chartwells strange, powerful charms and his stranglehold on their lives? Can they even explain who or what he is and why he has come to visit?
In this utterly original, moving, funny, and exuberant novel, Rebecca Hunt explores how two unlikely lives collide as Mr. Chartwells motives are revealed to be far darker and deeper than they at first seem.
The conceit at the heart of Mr. Chartwell - the re-envisioning of Winston Churchill's famous bouts of depression as actual visits from a huge, slobbery black dog - is not cutesy or trite, as the book jacket blurb might lead one to fear, but clever and disarming. Rebecca Hunt engages the topic of depression in an inventive way, and the result is not a grim dose of hard truth but a playful meditation on the human condition. This is a novel about depression that even a depressed person can enjoy - indeed, a depressed person might find it radically cheering. (Reviewed by Jennifer G Wilder).
Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, in Entertainment Weekly
A clever, entertaining, and deliciously literary novel that literally personifies Winston Churchill's 'black dog' of melancholy. It is dark comedy at its finest.
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.
A witty, intelligent curiosity of a novel - less a story, more a recipe for mental health presented in light fictional form.
Starred Review. Already published in Hunt's home country, Great Britain, this debut novel cleverly combines historical detail, a marvelously subtle sense of humor, and the wit of J.K. Rowling to give readers a quirky assortment of characters they can root for with abandon.
The Scotsman (UK)
A real joy to read: funny, clever and original. A darkly comic debut that hits all the right notes.
The Sunday Times (UK)
Hunt's concept is intriguing, and she paints a vivid picture of the symptoms of depression.
The Bookseller (UK)
Powerful and original. Rebecca Hunt is a name to watch.
The Daily Mail (UK)
[A] marvellously original, tender and funny debut novel ... Rebecca Hunt proves herself to be a gifted writer who has no need of fictional realism to deliver profound truths.
The Sunday Express (UK)
Offers a powerful evocation of depression. Brilliantly original and thought-provoking. She tackles a serious topic with humour and intelligence and marks herself out as one to watch.
A remarkable debut. These are some of the best evocations of depression you’ll read.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Blueangel The Dark of it all I loved this book both as a great fun read as well as a study into the dark world of depression. It brought back real life memories of the world of my very best friend and partner. I found Ms. Hunt to be right on the mark with her soft description... Read More
Churchill's Black Dog
Winston Churchill (1874-1965), the famous British prime minister who told Hitler "we shall never surrender" during World War II, was not the first to describe depression as a "black dog." The Oxford English Dictionary cites earlier uses of the phrase in literature and in nursery lore; for example, a sullen child was said to "have the black dog on his back." But Churchill was the most famous, and the expression is now indelibly linked to him.
Most of what we know about Churchill's black dog comes from a memoir his personal physician, Lord Charles Moran, published after his death. "In his early days," Lord Moran writes, "he was afflicted by fits of depression that might last for months. He called them the 'black dog.' He dreaded these bouts and instinctively kept away from anything that seemed to bring them on." Churchill told Moran in 1944, "I don't like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through...I don't like to stand by...
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...