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The Man in the Wooden Hat Hardcover – 3 Sep 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; First Edition; 1st printing. edition (3 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701177985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701177980
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.2 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 254,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Gardam has been awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for a lifetime's contribution to the enjoyment of literature; has twice won a Whitbread Award and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Product Description


`[a] delicious new novel...Gardam's writing is lyrical and never strains...brimming with a celebratory attitude to language.' --Financial Times

`Hilarious but also deeply touching' --Reader's Digest

`an extraordinarily rich account of a long marriage, the restraints, the compromises and the sacrifices' --The Guardian

`Delicious and poignant...there are rich complexities of chronology, settings and characters, all manipulated with marvellous dexterity' --The Spectator

`Gardam's writing is like painting on glass: vivid and translucent'. --Independent

"...The characters tell their own stories through flashes of thought and perfectly pitched dialogue..."
--The Independant on Sunday

`a supremely literary and youthful book' --Sunday Times

"full of wit and precision"
--The Oldie

"stylish, Woolfian examination of a long marriage"

`a novel of exhilarating beauty and intelligence' --Seven magazine in Sunday Telegraph

`a special treat'

Book Description

A box of delights - another masterpiece from Jane Gardam. The Man in the Wooden Hat is a companion volume to Old Filth, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By H. Eaton VINE VOICE on 27 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is another wonderful story about the life of fictional judge Edward Feathers and his wife Betty. The first book is titled 'Old Filth' (Filth meaning Failed in London, Try Hong Kong) and the second "The Man in the Wooden Hat". The latter looks at the marriage of Filth and Betty from her point of view and fills in some of the blanks that are hinted at but not expounded upon in the first book.

It is another wonderfully captivating read from Jane Gardam. The characters and places are vividly drawn and the unexpressed emotion in the book is palpable. In her very easy, flowing style we see how Betty and Edward fall in love despite an inauspicious, unpromising start to their marriage. From the outside, Betty and Edward look like a fairly boring, conservative couple, sensible from the start, untroubled by passionate emotions or flights of fancy. But we see how this is really a facade, brilliantly maintained, and how, in spite of deceptions and hidden longings, the two of them manage to hold on to a marriage that is genuine and loving for both of them.

The reason I'm giving this book four rather than five stars is that I was not at all keen on the character of Albert Ross. I'm not sure if I'm not reading him the right way, but for me, he is introduced as someone who will be pivotal to the story and he appears on a number of occasions. I don't, however, think he was necessary at all to the narrative. He was completely unbelievable as a character and I think he could be removed from the story with no damage done! I'm sure other readers will disagree and say that I'm missing the point of him as the conscience or the subconscious of the characters, but for me, he's too contrived to be satisfying!

Otherwise, though, highly recommended!
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a treat for those who have read `Old Filth', Jane Gardam's previous book about Sir Edward Feathers and his wife Betty (see my Amazon review), but also for those who have not read it (and will surely want to read it next), for, though the knowledge of its predecessor will add an additional layer of enjoyment, this book does not assume such knowledge. And anyway, significant though it is, there is only a modicum of overlap between the two novels (and there are even two small discrepancies between the events described).

The focus of `Old Filth' was on Sir Edward; here it is on Betty: we learn much, much more about her than in the first book. Edward we see as the kind of person he already was when they married - a workaholic and unable to give much emotionally; but we would have to go to the earlier novel to see what had made him become like that. The current book begins with their engagement and more or less ends where the earlier book more or less began.

There are more disconcerting elements in the second book than in the first. The dwarf Albert Ross, who is devoted to Edward and knows him better than anyone else does, seems more spooky. His hat is an important part of him, and the title of the book suggests the great influence Jane Gardam attributes to him (though why the hat of the title is wooden we discover in a single image near the end of the book.) She even has him survive Edward, when in the previous book Edward outlived him - one of the two discrepancies noted above. (The other relates to a watch). Betty's behaviour when she has just been engaged (the oddest engagement, to be followed by the oddest wedding) is more upsetting and indeed hard to explain. There is in the first half of the book a note of hysteria.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Cunliffe TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 April 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'd always intended to read Jane Gardam's much-lauded novel Old Filth but somehow never got around to it, and then the The Man in the Wooden Hat was published so I thought I'd start with that. Old Filth told the story of Sir Edward Feathers ("Old Filth" - Failed in London, Try Hong Kong), a successful lawyer and later a judge who spent much of his career as a property and construction lawyer in the Far East. The Man in the Wooden Hat runs in parallel and tells the story from his wife Elisabeth's perspective. I was told I didn't need to read Old Filth first and I was certainly not aware of any missing background problems when reading this apparently stand-alone novel.

The book opens with Edward Feathers, then a young barrister, waiting in Heathrow airport with his right-hand man Albert Ross, for a flight to Hong Kong. Edward has proposed to Elisabeth a Scottish girl, born in China of ex-patriate parents who spent the war in Japanese internment camps, and is waiting to hear her answer. Albert Ross is a Chinese dwarf, a solicitor with a formidable reputation as Edward's fixer. Ross wears a trilby hat with a zip compartment containing a pack of cards, which features throughout the story.

The two men are flying to Hong Kong to fight a case against another lawyer, the detested Terry Veneering. Edward Feathers loathes Terry Veneering, for he is everything Edward isn't - "bold, ugly and unstoppable", and "irrepressibly merry" in a way women find irresistible.

The scene shifts to Hong Kong, where we meet Elisabeth, a free-spirit, whose background in the camps has left her rootless and adaptable, unconcerned by money or position.
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