Friday, July 29, 2011

Black Dog

I stumbled upon Rebecca Hunt's novel Mr. Chartwell without any prior knowledge or recommendation. (A friend at my book club asked where I got my reading suggestions, and I said, "Everywhere." Sometimes, the discoveries are pure serendipity--I do judge a book by it cover or I choose an audiobook because it is there.)

Someone too bent on realism might pass this one by. The protagonist Esther Hammerhans advertises for a boarder for her empty room--formerly the office of her late husband. To her surprise, the first person (and I use that term loosely) to respond it a huge black dog. A talking dog. A pushy talking dog. He bullies her into letting him stay, offering a large financial sum for a temporary stay. She learns, though, that he is Winston Churchill's "black dog"--the personification of his bouts of depression. Indeed, Churchill is a character in the novel as well, getting ready to announce his retirement from Parliament.

Esther, who works at the library at Parliament, is looked after by well-meaning friends, trying to get her through the second anniverary of her husband Michael's death with a dinner invitation and a little matchmaking. The quirky tale not only led me to read more about Churchill, but it used the "black dog" analogy beautifully to present a picture of how depression can move in and take over a life.

I'll admit that I enjoy hearing a book well read in a British accent. I wonder if Brits get the same sensation from hearing something decidedly American read in a soft Southern accent. From time to time, I considered picking up the book in print to go back to some passages that invited further consideration. Maybe I still will.

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