- Brian Donaldson
- 24 August 2011
This article is from 2011.
The author of Mr Chartwell creates a credible and empathetic vision of illness
One of the most intriguing and delectably-crafted debut novels of the past year is Mr Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt. The black dog of Winston Churchill’s legendary deep depression is brought vividly to life through the eponymous mutt (also known as Black Pat) who pays regular visits to the two key (human) characters in the book, the wartime leader himself as he swithers on the verge of quitting the political scene, and Esther, a library clerk at the House of Commons who is shocked to receive a visit from Black Pat.
The besuited canine was often spoken of by Hunt's depressed husband who ultimately committed suicide. Does this mean that the lonely widow is now in the clutches of a miserable cloud that is easy to be engulfed by but very difficult to escape from?
‘I’ve had darker moments and know people who’ve had it rough but I don’t think I’ve been truly depressed,’ says Hunt. ‘I did read up about it, but I used information that I’ve learned through my own experiences and expanded it to for the writing. You use empathy and imagination to try and create and develop the experience in a way that you hope is credible.’
29 Aug (with Cornelius Medvei), 3.30pm, £7 (£5).