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Thoughts on “Mr. Chartwell” by Rebecca Hunt

I received Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. It was published earlier this year.

About the Book:

Mr Charwell by Rebecca Hunt (cover)Wednesday, July 22, 1964: Winston Churchill awakes to a presence in his room. It’s a familiar presence, one he’s grown accustomed to, but it’s not friendly or welcome. Rather, it is something to be endured.

Meanwhile, Esther Hammerhans waits to meet her potential lodger. But when Mr. Chartwell arrives, he isn’t at all what she’d expected. He is, in fact, beyond even the scope of her imagination. She’s hesitant to take him on, but his exorbitant monetary offer is difficult to turn down. Should she let him stay?

My Thoughts:

The summary above is deliberately vague. I think part of what’s fun about Mr. Chartwell is uncovering its bizarreness along with Esther. If you want to hear more about the plot, there are plenty of reviews out there that will tell you.

I’m going to start with what I didn’t like about the book, which, overall, is rather small and easy to skip. I’ve heard there is a book called When You Catch an Adjective, Kill it. I don’t know what it’s about, beyond the broad topic of grammar, but over and over during the first half of the book, the title phrase popped into mind. Each chapter (and they are short, so there are many) begins with a paragraph or two that describes the scene. It pained me to read them. (And I like adjectives, so if I was annoyed, that’s bad.) I think at one point I counted seven adjectives preceding a noun. I’ll be honest–I started skipping them. I liked the book much better.

The rest of Hunt’s writing is quite lovely. Her dialogue is snappy, her characters lovable. The plot, though completely strange, worked. The novel is relatively short, very easy to read, stripped of what is unnecessary (except for those darned adjectives!). I found it impossible to capture the essence of Mr. Chartwell in a single word. Instead, as I read, I wrote down four: creepy, funny, intriguing, puzzling. And it really was all those things.

SEMI-SPOILER ALERT!

The novel deals, first and foremost, with depression, and as I read, I wished I knew more about it; I know next to nothing. I found myself wondering if the way Hunt portrayed it was accurate. Does it run in families? Is it something that can be turned away from, to a point? I am curious to know more. If Hunt accurately turned depression into a character, I think the book would make for an interesting learning tool.

I have to say, I really enjoyed Black Pat’s dog-like tendencies and how he seemed powerless to resist their urges. Also, Dennis-John cracked me up.

I’d recommend Mr. Chartwell if you’re up for trying something a little off-beat or if you’re looking for a quick read that’s clever and funny, light without being fluffy.

Those are my thoughts. Check out Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt on Goodreads or LibraryThing, or read a plethora of other bloggers’ reviews!

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  • http://www.stephandtonyinvestigate.com Steph

    When I read this book earlier in the year, I admit, the abundance of adjectives totally bypassed me. I didn’t notice that issue at all!

    As for the questions you pose in your spoiler-y section, I can at least say with regards to the first one, that yes, this disease is one that tends to run in families and it is thought there is a genetic component to it. As to the second question, that’s a bit more controversial. I would say that those who suffer from this problem do not do so simply because of lack of force of will at turning their back on it.

    • Erin

      I don’t know why the adjectives got to me so much! The rest of the writing was so good.

      Thanks for the info re: the spoiler section. I think what bothered me was how the book seemed to say one could overcome the disease just by willpower, like those who succumbed were somehow too weak to push it away. Perhaps I was misreading. I didn’t think that was how it worked, though, so many thanks for your clarification, even if it’s a controversial matter.

  • http://www.ragingbibliomania.net/ zibilee

    I loved this book and how it could be funny at one moment and poignant at the next. I had so many things to say about Black Pat as well. He was charming and honest, yet ferocious when he wanted to be, especially when it came to Churchill. I am glad that you mostly like this one. I had a great time with it, and will probably not forget it for a long while.

    • Erin

      Yes, it was so many things all rolled into one! Black Pat simultaneously entertained and disgusted me. I loved how he was so sophisticated at times and yet so true to his nature at others. And I liked how he was almost gentle with Esther, like he could, to a point, suite his manner to the person with whom he was dealing.

  • http://www.readinasinglesitting.com Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting

    Oh, I’m putting this on my TBR (and what a clever cover, by the way!). It sounds right up my alley, and I’m the sort who can’t get enough of adjectives. :)

    • Erin

      Isn’t the cover fun? I think you’d like this one. And it seems no one else has noticed the adjectives, so perhaps it’s just me! You’ll have to let me know :-)

  • http://jennysbooks.wordpress.com Jenny

    What Steph said about depression running in families. I would say there are ways that you can help yourself to turn away from it, but they don’t work for everyone, and they don’t always work. I guess — when I’ve been depressed, it has been within my power to make it better, but it hasn’t been within my power to make it go away entirely.

    This sounds wonderful!

    • Erin

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Jenny. The way the book handles depression makes it seem almost like it is up to the individual to turn away from it, which didn’t quite seem right to me. I may have been misreading it. I appreciate hearing from people who know more about it than I do, as I wouldn’t want to end up with misconceptions based on a novel!

  • http://bookchatter.net Ti

    Describes the scene? Like what you’d see in a play? That’s kind of weird. Why wouldn’t the author just incorporate the descriptions into the story itself? That would bug me too.

    • Erin

      Yes, that’s how it felt to me! Like, if it was a room, every detail would be laid out: what was on the walls, the quality of light, the arrangement (and sometimes style) of furniture, etc. Kind of like director’s notes for setting up a stage, maybe. It doesn’t seem to have bothered anyone else, but it drove me nuts!

  • http://alitareads.wordpress.com Alita

    Between the vague summary and the cover, I am definitely intrigued. The scene descriptions sound like an odd way to start chapters, but I think I’ll still give this one a chance.

    • Erin

      It seems I was the only one annoyed by the descriptions…most others haven’t even noticed them, so perhaps it’s just me! The good thing is that they’re pretty much concentrated into one paragraph at the start of a chapter, so they’re easy to skim. The rest of the writing is snappy and great, though. Definitely worth a read if it intrigues you!

  • http://stacybuckeye.wordpress.com/ stacybuckeye

    I think less is more for most book descriptions. I want to know enough to want to know more, but not much more than that. Same with movie trailers. It seems that you see the whole movie in some of these trailers!

    • Erin

      I agree with you. I try not to give away too much in my descriptions. I avoid reading book jackets and online summaries sometimes because they outline so much of the book! I love going into a book knowing only a little about it.

  • http://www.coffeeandabookchick.com Natalie ~ Coffee and a Book Chick

    I’m definitely in the mood for something offbeat. I just finished a Persephone book that was most assuredly bizarre and creepy, and I loved every second of it. Glad to add this one to my reminder list as well!

    • Erin

      Ooh, this one sounds like a good follow-up, then! Or at least, one you’d enjoy at some point. Aside from my one picky complaint, I really did like this one!