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The Man in the Wooden Hat Paperback – 27 Oct 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 100 customer reviews

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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: 13.5 x 1.7 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,299,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most reviewers seem to have a natural bent towards their subjects, so non-positive reviews on Amazon are not too popular. So my view is that Jane Gardam's work has lost it's subtlety and incisiveness over the years. I found "The man in the wooden hat" over-contrived, too full of wildly improbable "coincidences", and with an over "arch" pattern of apparently predicting the future. I preferred her novels written in the 1970s and 1980s
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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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