Mr. Chartwell

Written by Rebecca Hunt
Review by Ken Kreckel

Esther Hammerhans, a young librarian with the House of Commons, is disturbed when she finds a prospective new lodger at her front door. For this is no ordinary tenant: it is instead a dog, a large black dog no less, and one that not only walks on two feet but talks as well. Meanwhile, to the south of London, Winston Churchill has just awakened to a familiar presence in his room. It is an old adversary, one that has dogged him his entire life. He calls himself “Black Pat,” and his appearance on the eve of the Prime Minister’s final retirement from office is hardly welcome.

This is a gem of a book, one that tackles the enigma of depression in a completely original, engaging way. Taking her cue from the “black dog,” as Churchill describes the deep bouts of depression that followed him throughout his life, Hunt weaves a tale that both explores and illuminates the condition that afflicts so many. Giving the malady a physical presence enables her to describe a disorder that seems so baffling to those who live with a depressed person, who, unlike Esther and Sir Winston, cannot see the black dog of mental illness, but nevertheless live with its effects. With prose nothing short of brilliant, she does this in an entertaining, sometimes comical, but always poignant manner.  Highly recommended.