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The Man in the Wooden Hat Paperback – 27 Oct 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 233 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions; First Publication edition (27 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933372893
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933372891
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 1.9 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,673,545 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

Review

`[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"
--Guardian

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

`a special treat'
--Psychologies --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

* A box of delights - another masterpiece from Jane Gardam and a companion novel to OLD FILTH --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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 A Common Reader TOP 50 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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Anna Thomas on 7 Mar 2010
Format: Hardcover
Nothing to add to all the reviews - I read Old Filth first and loved it and was also totally absorbed by The Man in the Wooden Hat. However, one thing jarred with me. Betty is said to have been a child in a Japanese Internment camp during the war but we are also led to believe that she was a code-breaker at Bletchley Park. I have mused over this but still can't work out how she could have done both. Also at one point we are told she went back to England to finish her education and attend university. (Before or after Bletchley?) If anyone can throw any light on this puzzle - especially if I have missed something - I would be most grateful.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Fellingham on 7 Sep 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this before I read 'Old Filth', and although this novel unquestionably stands on its own, it consistently gave me the feeling that it was making assumptions about its characters and perhaps unintentionally assuming that they would already be familiar from the earlier book.

One of the positives to be derived from this is that it doesn't hang about, doesn't linger self-indulgently. And one of the negatives to be derived from that in turn is a rather sketchy attitude to some characters and events. Terry Veneering, for instance, the oik rival lawyer to Eddie Feathers, the male protagonist, seemed to me more of a plot device than a real character. And I wasn't at all sure whether Albert Ross (the "Chinese dwarf") was supposed to have some kind of fantastical, mystical element to him, which in a way undermined for me the reality. That sketchiness seemed to me to extend to the narrative technique, which slips into using letters or screenplay, for instance, in ways that might sometimes seem just a bit lazily arbitrary. But they do contribute to the story being told clearly.

Now that I have read "Old Filth", quite a bit becomes quite a lot clearer, so I think that's my recommendation: do read them both but in that order. Maybe they should be combined somehow into one book, with the parallel narratives merged.

One small niggle: it's always annoying and unsettling to come upon factual errors; they always make you wonder whether there aren't perhaps more that you haven't spotted and don't happen to recognise. I don't think it was possible in the time of Attlee's government (i.e. 1951 at the latest) to fly from London to Hong Kong in fourteen hours with just one stopover, and it certainly wouldn't have been with British Airways which wasn't formed until 1974.
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