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The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam

The Man in the Wooden Hat (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Jane Gardam (Author)

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6333215,308 (4.01)248
Title:The Man in the Wooden Hat
Authors:Jane Gardam (Author)
Info:Europa Editions (2009), Edition: First Publication, Paperback, 240 pages
Collections:Your library, Europa Editions
Tags:Fiction, contemporary, British, colonialism, Europa Editions

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The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam (2009)

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This is the second book in the "Old Filth" trilogy. The story is told from the perspective of Betty Feathers, Old Filth's wife.

They meet in Hong Kong after WWII. She has spent time in a Japanese internment camp, later went to boarding school and Oxford and worked at Bletchley Park as a code breaker. She receives his marriage proposal by mail on his official letterhead. He is looking for a proper wife who will always stay with him. She is looking for marriage, stability and children. Neither is exactly what the other is looking for, and both have secrets that they think are hidden from each other.

This tells the story of two people who are more dependent on each other than they think. Also how they make their lives mesh while rising to higher levels in society. Filth through his work in the courts and Betty with her involvement in running a house with staff, social duties and being a successful barrister's wife.

Two other characters are woven into this tapestry. They are Filth's nemesis Veneering and Veneering's son Harry. Harry becomes the child that Betty never had, in her eyes and mind, even though she is not his mother.

Written in a style that carries the reader along, with descriptions, situations - humourous and serious, and supporting characters, it is a book to take time reading and not racing through. ( )
  ChazziFrazz | Dec 14, 2016 |
The is the middle book in the Old Filth trilogy written by Jane Gardam; however, it is the one I read last. I felt that the last book, Old Friends, was missing something. Now, having read The Man in the Wooden Hat, I am satisfied. The first Old Filth was from his perspective, after his wife (Betty) died. The second book was largely from his wife's perspective. The third included a lot about the "elephant in the room" in the person of Terry Veneering, who filth detested and Betty loved. I did not care for Betty until I read this book. Though their marriage was not one of passion, it was one of love and commitment. They liked each other and needed each other and were good for each other. I just loved this series of books. ( )
  bogopea | Nov 18, 2016 |
Mix feelings. It's Gardam so the writing is impeccable - funny, thoughtful, wonderfully nuanced. And it's Gardam so the characters are dear and infuriating all at the same time. But the short novel is a companion piece to Old Filth and there is something incomplete about it. I am quite sure that the novel would not hold up on its own - it fills in too many gaps in Old Filth.

Curious about Gardam's process here - did she write it afterwards? is it made up of pieces that didn't make it into OF? or was she so smitten by the characters that she created that she went back and created something new that then changes what happened in Old Filth?

The problem here is that now OF feels like a lesser work and I am left very puzzled.
( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
The second in the series, with the perspective mostly that of Edward's wife Betty. I liked this more than the first novel, and there were various revelations about Betty's relationship with Veneering, which filled in things I had been wondering about. Also a couple of shock revelations about Edward. Looking forward to the third. ( )
  pgchuis | Oct 26, 2016 |
Wonderful British story of a decades-long marriage. A companion to the earlier work "Old Filth," but this time told from wife Betty's point of view. I've not read the earlier work, so I don't know if I would still have been surprised by some of the revelations in this book. ( )
  BookConcierge | May 27, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
On its own, “The Man in the Wooden Hat” is funny and affecting, but read alongside “Old Filth,” it’s remarkable. Gardam has attempted to turn a story inside out without damaging the original narrative’s integrity — moving from black to white without getting stuck with gray. Little here is as it seemed in “Old Filth,” and both books are the richer for it.
"While "Old Filth" is principally about the man, his dark boyhood at the mercy of a distant, unfeeling father, with the wife a rather shadowy character in the background, "The Man in the Wooden Hat" fills in her side of the story, in the process revealing itself to be an astute, subtle depiction of marriage, with all its shared experiences and separate secrets."
What Gardam is particularly good at – and what made Old Filth so compelling – is creating for her characters façades of complete conventionality, which are then chipped away to reveal strange internal workings.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jane Gardamprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wallis, BillNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Tells the story of the fifty-year marriage of barrister Filth and his wife Betty, which is filled with secrets and hidden desires.

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