Bound by the Black Dog – “Mr. Chartwell” by Rebecca Hunt
In Rebecca Hunt’s fascinating debut novel, he’s called “Mr. Chartwell.” He’s a black Labrador who stands on his back legs and holds conversations with people. That’s right, he’s a dog man. Consider it a testament to what a great writer Rebecca Hunt is, that she makes this seem totally okay from the very first page.
Ester Hammerhans is an awkward librarian who’s husband killed himself two years earlier, and now has decided to rent a room in her home for extra money. Tired of seeing her lonely, her friends are trying to fix her up with a charmingly awkward new library employee. Across town, Winston Churchill is readying to resign from Parliament. Mr. Chartwell arrives at Ester’s door seeking a place to stay, and soon moves in – even as his business with Mr. Churchill grows more and more intense. While he’s around, Mr. Chartwell/The Black Dog develops an an attachment to Ester.
That’s about where I have to stop before I give something away.
“Mr. Chartwell,” is a seriously remarkable first novel. It’s hardly what you expect it to be when you begin reading, and the whole effect is refreshing. Hunt doesn’t feel the need to explain every instance to the reader, and leaves several things open to post-reading interpretation. Her characters are well-developed and her dialogue is fresh and witty. (Winston Churchill, particularly, is given some remarkably strong lines.) It’s just a smart book all around.
The book is more than you think it’s going to be when you begin reading it – which is precisely what makes it worth a read. Here’s to a remarkable debut by a new voice in fiction – and here’s hoping Ms. Rebecca Hunt writes many more clever books full of surprises.
The book goes on sale February 22, 2011. Get your hands on it.