Winston Churchill fought a life-long battle with clinical depression. He characterized that depression as being a big black dog that bedeviled him. In "Mr. Chartwell," Rebecca Hunt takes that metaphorical description and makes it literal. Churchill's depression is literally a big black dog who gives his name variously as Mr. Chartwell (Chartwell being the name of Churchill's home estate) and Black Pat.
It isn’t an original set-up: two former lovers briefly reunite in Rome and sift through the ashes of their long-lost romance. Yet, Mary Gordon is such a skilled writer that she should have been able to pull it off. Her descriptions of Rome do bring the city to life, and she carefully develops both of the main characters. Still the book never quite lives up to Gordon’s usual standard.
Each of us copes with loss in a different way. For Frank and Ellie Benton the sorrow is huge, occasioned by the death of their young son, Benny. As their marriage falters in the wake of the tragedy, Frank accepts a job offer in India, hoping that the change of scene will heal them. Once there the two face new challenges as Frank’s company deals with labor unrest, and Frank forms a strong but problematic attachment to Ramesh, his cook’s young son.
It’s the rare book that can consider weighty themes without a bleak tone and plot. As readers we’re often forced to choose between literary fiction that borders on the morose and lighter fare that can feel like a waste of time. Not so with Siri Hustvedt’s new novel, Summer without Men. Hustvedt manages to examine everything from adolescent bullying to the potential grief and loneliness of old age in a charming novel that never seems depressing thanks to the wry humor of the first person narrator, Mia.
Abandoned by his girlfriend and struggling to make ends meet as a freelance translator, Georg is leading a dull, lonely life until one phone call changes everything. Hired be a new translation agency where he meets and quickly falls in love with a new coworker, Georg’s life finally seems to be turning around. Then a former employer dies, and Georg has the chance to advance his career even further by buying his own agency.