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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
The Man In The Wooden Hat (Old Filth Trilogy 2)
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on 16 February 2014
Most sequels are subject to the law of diminishing returns, and it applies the more so when as much of the plot from the earlier book is recycled as in this one. That said, the characters are well worth revisiting and Gardam's rich style and probing intelligence make the book very rewarding. Much of the content of Betty's early life is enjoyable and at times moving. I am not sure if I shall read the third book but it's tempting, just because Gardam writes so well. I wish there wasn't so much coincidence, and there are flaws in the structure that should have been ironed out - others have pointed out that Betty's cv just doesn't work chronologically.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 March 2010
A beautifully written book full of humour, longings for missed opportunities and sadness. It covers most of the life of Betty the young wife of barrister Edward Feathers (Old Filth of the companion book Old Filth, which I now must read to get his perspective of their life together). The characters really come alive on the page and he author is adept at creating a sense place and time, taking the reader from just after the Second World War in Hong Kong and England up to the late 1990s: an ability I admired in the only other book I've read by Jane Gardam The Flight of the Maidens. In both books she gets to the heart of women's feelings so I'll be interested to see how deftly she describes the inner thoughts of Edward in his side of their life. Although by the end I felt sad for the characters, Jane Gardam is a witty writer who also made me chuckle many times. I may be wrong but I feel that the book would appeal more to older people who have had some experience of the vicissitudes of life.
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on 11 March 2017
A clever delve into the pasts of Old Filth and more immediately of Betty. Well developed from the first part of the trilogy and ultimately rather sad. Much is left unsaid about the major players but Jane Gardam's brevity leaves scope for one's own imagination to flesh out the characters.
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on 15 August 2017
Not as engaging as FILTH?
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on 6 August 2017
Very, very good book
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VINE VOICEon 27 August 2011
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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on 17 October 2017
This is the 2nd book with ‘Old Filth’ as one of the principal characters. He is a judge serving abroad. Don’t be put off by the name – it stands for ‘Failed in London, try Hong Kong’. The first book of the two with this character, which I have NOT read, was short-listed for the Orange Prize. The title of this 2nd book is explained somewhere but it was not very memorable, as I passed it by without registering much. I suppose the title is to ‘catch the eye’. I think there's a 3rd one now and it's a trilogy. Not sure why.
There are a number of interesting characters in ‘The Man in the Wooden Hat not least Filth's wife, Betty. I would have preferred knowing more about her earlier life (Japanese internment camp, code-breaker at Bletchley park), but I expect that is covered in the first book. I found the colonial settings in this one far more interesting than the British ones and wish more could have been made of the non-colonial peoples. But that would have been to change the perspective of the book, which is really about the British abroad in positions of power, although those inevitably are tapering out.
It was one of those books which it takes a while to get into, it seems so light. There is a high level of compassion in the author’s observations and the way she uses rivalry to structure the plot. But the plot is weak. There is a great deal about love and its development or withering over time. The finale (no spoilers) is very contrived – especially in the proximity of two houses. If you read this book you will understand what I mean.
In the end it all passed quite quickly and pleasantly. Forget the hype. Nothing to get your teeth into, or to excite you, but sometimes you can enjoy this sort of comfortable read that fills a gap.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 December 2009
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. It is hard to believe that this could ever be a successful marriage.

And yet it was - though at a price that will be fully apparent only in the last few pages. Betty does have to go through trials - and very movingly they are described - but her relationship with Edward is not the cause of them.

We move back and forth between a retreat in the depth of the Dorset countryside and the throbbing life of Hong Kong. Again the writing is both funny and touching.

It is, I think, an even better book than `Old Filth' - and I had given five stars to that!
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on 18 November 2011
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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on 7 March 2010
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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