Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Review: Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt

Mr. Chartwell, like Little Bee, is a book that I found irresistable because of the cover.  I love damask (just ask my dining room) and I love big black dogs.  This big black dog is a little bit less lovable than my little boys though.  The titular Mr. Chartwell is the big black dog of depression that Winston Churchill wrote of.  Throughout the book, he troubles both Mr. Churchill and Esther Hammerhans, a young librarian.  

Writing:
Beautiful.  The author does an amazing job of personifying depression, without overstating the allegorical aspects of the story.  Esther and Churchill both experience Mr. Chartwell in very different ways, but I found that i recognized aspects of depression in both cases.  As someone who has dealt with depression, or I suppose you could say deals with depression, I thought the author did an amazing job of capturing how it sneaks into your life with the story of Esther and Mr. Chartwell.  I also thought that Churchill's relationship with Mr. Chartwell as an old acquaintence was well portrayed.  

Entertainment Value:
This is a great example of a book that is beautifully written that isn't necessarily that much fun to read.  It is slow.  Not much happens in the way of plot, which actually makes sense because it's hard to do anything at all when you're depressed.  There's a lot of thinking and interior monologue.  At times it's, well, depressing, but despite that I enjoyed reading it.  I would describe it as a slow, thoughtful read.  

I recommend it to anyone who has had or currently has depression as well as anyone who knows someone dealing with depression.  Whether it's a one-time occurence brought on by a traumatic event or a chronic struggle, this book provides great insight into what it's like to deal with sadness on a daily basis.  There are some great descriptions of the physical feelings that come with depression.  In my favorite passage, Mrs. Churchill confronts Mr. Chartwell with how he has affected her husband's life and, through her husband, her own life.  I'm not sure it will appeal as much to those who haven't ever struggled with this personally or known someone closely who has. 


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