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Mr Chartwell Paperback – 5 May 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (5 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141049871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141049878
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 282,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A remarkable debut. These are some of the best evocations of depression you'll read (Observer)

Extraordinary. Owing to Hunt's robust, intelligent style and ingenuiuty and compassion with which she deals with her story, it is very good indeed (Daily Telegraph)

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 (Sunday Express)

Moving. Hunt treats her heavy themes with a light, intelligent touch and writes with a distinctive blend of humour, restraint and insight (Metro)

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 (Daily Mail)

Utterly gripping, truly innovative, beautifully written. One of those novels which knocks you sideways with the brilliance of the idea behind it (Stylist)

A real joy to read: funny, clever and original. A darkly comic debut that hits all the right notes (Scotsman)

Inventive and original (Grazia)

About the Author

Rebecca Hunt graduated from Central Saint Martins College with a first class honours degree in fine art. She lives and works in London. Her first novel, Mr Chartwell, was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and shortlisted for the Galaxy National Book Awards New Writer of the Year.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In 1964, 89 year old Winston Churchill wakes up to find a looming presence in his room. It is the depression from which he has suffered throughout his life, which he famously called the "black dog." Across town, Esther Hammerhans opens her front door to find a huge black dog standing outside, wanting to rent her spare room. The black dog introduces himself as Mr Chartwell, and later comes to be known as Black Pat. Esther has no idea who or what he is, or why he has sought her out. So will she find out before she falls under his diabolical spell?

This is such an unusual novel that I find it very difficult to review. The premise sounds completely absurd - to make the black dog of depression into an actual black dog, who can talk and interact with those whose life he infiltrates - and does not sound as though it should work. However, as a plot device it works incredibly well, showing how depression can creep up on someone insiduously, how it can affect all areas of life, and how it can be strangely attractive.

The narrative is in the third person, and takes place over a few days during which Churchill retires completely from politics. The story switches from Churchill to Esther, who do not know each other, and are unaware that they have a mutual companion. I thought the writing was terrific - descriptive, but without any unnecessary words, subtle, and at times very funny. However, the humour had a distinct sting in the tail.

Esther is a beautifully drawn character, who was easy to believe in, and Churchill was also described brilliantly (as was his wife, Clementine), and facts from his real life were woven into the story. Black Pat hovers over every scene ominously and is variously shown as tender, spiteful, witty, selfish, cynical and inviting.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a significant first novel. It shows a young author in full command of her imagination, wit, intelligence and creativity. She has a natty turn of phrase and an ability to revel in the absurd.

The first impressions are of a lovingly created book. The varying textures of the cover, the humour of the design and general presentation smack of quality. The writing matches that effortlessly.

There is a poetic lyricism to some of the writing which nestles seamlessly alongside broad humour and a subtle insight into the human condition.

It is rare to find a book that feels truly original - and I am delighted to have been one of the first to encounter this new talent. In just over 200 pages, she has created something to savour, something to linger over, something to make you laugh and think.

Read it!
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By D. Harris TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Oct. 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a thought provoking and intelligent book based on an intriguing premise. Winston Churchill suffered from a state of gloom or depression which he referred to as his "black dog". What if this was a real, visible dog? What if it afflicted others in the same way? What if it could come for you...?

Esther Hammerhans is alone, two years after her husband Michael... Well I won't say: facts are hard won in this book and it's worth letting them tease themselves out. Anyway, Esther needs to let a room, which is how she meets Mr Chartwell. He needs somewhere to stay while he attends to a client who is, he reluctantly admits, Sir Winston Churchill. Esther, though surprised, treats him politely, even though Mr Chartwell is a large, black dog.

Esther's character is convincingly drawn here - polite and English, she doesn't want to ask how a dog can talk, or rent a room, or why nobody else can see him

Mr Chartwell himself is a contradiction. He is clearly malign (Hunt draws here, of course, on a deep well of folklore about the Black Dog):

"He watched her, sensing that a little seed of warmth had taken root and needed to be usurped."

Mr Chartwell - or Black Pat, as he asks to be called - is not passive, he has desires, he wants to manipulate, to control his "clients", bring to a certain frame of mind. But at the same time he is only acting on instructions (why? from whom? we never learn) which he cannot disobey. And his behaviour is convincingly doggish - as well as seeking to dominate, he seeks affection in a doggy way (causing chaos in the house). He is also flirtatious: there is - and this is genuinely unsettling - almost a vein of seduction here, conveyed very well and creepily.
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By Lovely Treez TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 3 Jan. 2011
Format: Hardcover
A book perhaps for those with enquiring, open minds, for those willing to suspend disbelief - otherwise it would be quite difficult, nigh impossible to get past the premise of depression personified as a walking, talking, beer drinking black dog.

It is July 1964 and Winston Churchill faces the abyss as he approaches his retirement, a time which, free from the distraction of work, will open the door to the likes of Black Pat, the huge, menacing black dog who darkens his mood and encumbers him both mentally and physically. Meanwhile, Esther Hammerhans, opens the door to Black Pat who presents himself as a potential lodger in answer to her advertisement. Two very different characters but linked by Black Pat who is inexplicably drawn to their doors. Will Black Pat "win" and succeed in blighting both of their lives?

Mr Chartwell is the most original literary treatment of depression I have ever read. Somehow, Rebecca Hunt manages, in this, her debut novel, to never let events fall into farce and allows the reader to see how close comedy and tragedy actually are. There are equal amounts of humour and misery here, even the personification of depression, Black Pat himself, is not averse to the odd joke, the cheesier the better! The author really captures the oppressiveness and sheer weight of depression in the hulking figure of the black dog and even captures the love-hate nature of depression where the attraction of misery and self absorption seems so much more potent than the notion of engaging with other people. Esther finds herself growing accustomed to Black Pat's presence, wearisome though it is - misery loves company after all!

Hunt's use of language is refreshingly original, her lightness of touch renders such a serious topic all the more accessible. I was very impressed by this debut novel, I hope Rebecca Hunt continues to take risks in her subject matter and writing style as I really enjoyed the clarity and honesty of Mr Chartwell.
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