Sometimes, when I’m feeling grumpy, bored or stressed, I like visiting a library or a bookshop. It feels like a sedative. Last time I had that feeling was before Christmas. I was stressed with moving home and moving the lab, when I went into the Whitechapel Library in London. And I found that they have a bookshop, that meets once in a month, and for the meeting in January they were reading Mr Chartwell, by Rebecca Hunt. After estimating the time left until the meeting and taking into consideration the thickness of the book, I decided to give it a try.
I started reading it in the plane on my way home for Christmas, and at beginning I was really confused. I really thought at some point that I had a misunderstanding because of my English level, but at some point I started to see it crystal clear.
The book begins with a young librarian, who puts an advertisement to rent one free room in her apartment. Someone is coming to see it, but when she opens the door, she finds a black dog. He is the one looking for the room. And that’s when all begins. Th black dog, also known as Black Pat, pays a visit to Winston Churchill, who is about to retire. At this point, most of the English readers have an idea of what this is all about, but for the non experts, this is how he referred to his depression, as a black dog. The title of the book (the official name of the dog) also is a reference to Churchill, since Chartwell is the place where he spent his last days.
Page after page you begin to understand what’s happening, and what’s this dog doing. You get also some insights in Churchill’s life, and in the life of Esther, the librarian.
It’s a bizarre book, but really easy to read. The chapters are small, and at some point you just want to know more. There are some hilarious points, a really strange thing for a book about depression.
For those who are wondering, yes, I made it to the reading club. Actually, both my boyfriend read it also, and we went together to the meeting. Now we are reading the next one, Mrs. Dalloway. When I finish it, I’ll tell you my impressions.
The book is published by Penguin, in the Fig Tree collection