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1st March
written by Steph
I apologize that of late it feels like I write more reviews on others sites than I do here, but you know the drill by now: new month, new BookPage, new reviews by Steph and Tony!

This month I covered Rebecca Hunt's debut novel, Mr. Chartwell. You might not normally expect the words "chronic depression" and "quirky" to go hand-in-hand, but they merrily skip about in this novel. Taking inspiration from the fact that Sir Winston Churchill used to refer to his battle with depression as his "black dog", Hunt takes the metaphor and makes it real in the form of beastly Mr. Chartwell, a hulking black lab. While Winston Churchill obviously plays a role in the book, to me the most intriguing character was entirely of Hunt's own creation, Esther Hammerhans who has troubles of her own. This was a quiet yet spirited novel that I found very thoughtful and probing. If you'd like to read more about it, you can read my full review here.

Tony tackled a much larger book than I this month (ain't that always the case?), and reviewed Jonathan Evison's latest novel, West of Here. The book has already been getting a lot of buzz and BookPage actually chose it as their top pick of the month! If you're into sweeping epics that span multiple periods of time, then this is the book for you. It features a small town in the Pacific Northwest and looks at the building of a damn back in the 1800s and how it is pivotal to sustaining life in that region... only for the damn to become a burden in the modern age. A intelligent look at the way the country and our lives have changed, this is a book you'll not want to miss. You should also not miss Tony's review, which you can check out here!


  1. 03/02/2011

    I just saw (and left behind) Mr. Chartwell in a charity shop this weekend. I thought I’d wait until the paperback comes out since I’ve already got enough books to read. But it’s certainly a title I have my eye on as it sounds like a very unusual book.

  2. I have my eyes open for Mr Chartwell too – it sounds like a very different book. I’m a bit worried about the quiet nature of it, but I’m hoping the thoughtfulness will make up for that.

  3. 03/02/2011

    I am going to be reviewing Mr. Chartwell soon, and after reading a few good reviews of it, I am rather excited about it. It sounds like it’s very good! I also have been interested in West of Here, so I will have to go over and check out that review as well. You are right when you say that book is getting a lot of buzz!

  4. 03/02/2011

    Oooh I’ve been looking forward to reading West of Here since BEA last year, and I just got the nice new hardcover. I think I’m gonna save your review until after I read it. It’s already hyped up in my head and I want to read with a completely fresh mind!!

  5. West of Here is my next book to buy, for sure. I have a lot on my pile, right now but it’s going to be my next one to come into the house.

  6. 03/03/2011

    I really should read Mr Churchill as I’m sure its excellent – its had really good reviews over here. Glad you enjoyed it!

  7. 03/04/2011

    @ sakura: Since I had an ARC of Chartwell it was a paperback copy which was actually quite lovely for reading! If you should find it in paperback, be sure to pick it up!
    @ Jackie: It’s definitely a quiet book, but it’s also very short and a quick read, so I don’t think you’ll find it too slow. There’s a lot of really good stuff in it!
    @ zibilee: I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Mr. Chartwell! I think you’ll like it a lot – it’s such an interesting premise!
    @ Kari: Please report back once you’ve read West of Here! The snippets Tony shared with me while he was reading it definitely piqued my interest!
    @ Pam: Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it when you do get your hands on it… I’m not sure I would be able to resist snatching it up right now! ๐Ÿ˜€
    @ Tom C: Yes, the positive reviews from over on your side of the pond certainly helped me decide to cover this one for BookPage. I tend to think you Brits have a solid sense of literary fiction!

  8. 03/03/2011

    I’m intrigued by the sound of Mr.Chartwell plus I love the cover! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. 03/03/2011

    I’m also intrigued by the premise of Mr. Chartwell – it must be much more difficult to make a book about depressing quirky than, well… depressing!

  10. 03/03/2011

    I love the black dog thing. It sounds so much better than a black cloud! And I am totally in favor of giving the husband the chunkster to review! :–)

  11. 03/04/2011

    @ Bina: It’s a really cool cover, isn’t it? And the premise was just too intriguing to pass up!
    @ Alex: I agree that it’s not an easy task to make a book about depressing a fun read for your readers, but Hunt manages it well. I think she sensitively tackles the subject and there are certainly some sad/somber moments, but there is a nice (and much needed) levity to the narrative that I think deserves praise.
    @ rhapsody: Yes, the black dog metaphor is so clever! And I never regret passing off the huge books to Tony… after all, he’s so much bigger than me! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. 03/06/2011

    I’m theoretically receiving Mr Chartwell from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program, and yours is the first review I’ve seen. Thanks!

  13. 03/06/2011

    I just checked Mr. Chartwell out of the library, but I’m afraid I won’t have time to read it Aaaarrrggg!

  14. 03/07/2011

    @ Erin: Yes, I haven’t heard much about this book yet, but hopefully it will catch on! I think it will surprise a lot of readers. I hope you enjoy it!
    @ Dorothy: If it’s any consolation, this really is a quick read. I’m sure you could find some way to squeeze it in… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. 03/08/2011

    The Mr Chartwell cover is so pretty. West of Here sound marvelous. I haven’t heard of it before but Tony’s review convinced me. Putting on the wish list, thanks.

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