The Man in the Wooden Hat Paperback – 27 Oct 2009
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|Paperback, 27 Oct 2009||
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`[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"
"stylish, Woolfian examination of a long marriage"
`a novel of exhilarating beauty and intelligence' --Seven magazine in Sunday Telegraph
`a special treat'
--Psychologies --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The Old Filth trilogy is a gem: funny, sad, profoundly humane. The writing shows a penetrating intelligence about people and the forces that shape them.Published 1 day ago by poggiosl
It is good to read Old Filth first, followed by The Man In The Wooden Hat. The two books give quite a different perspective of the same characters. Read morePublished 2 months ago by yvonne hughes
Spell binding, cannot put the book down. So immensely human and tremendous insight for a European in English psyche.Published 4 months ago by Donald Wijsenbek
Very well written, readable, with many twists and turns. Hard to put down.Published 5 months ago by Fikiri
As wonderful as Old Filth, and you see things from a different angle.Published 6 months ago by muttertier
Second in this superb trilogy, this is the story of Betty, long married to Judge Edward Feathers, (or Old Filth) the saga of whose long life was told in the first, "Old... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Brenda Young
Liquid prose with lyrical elements that wafts you into the post-colonial era: like watching a dying sunset.Published 10 months ago by Mrs Williams