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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

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5032320,248 (3.97)196
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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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Although I gave this the same rating as Old Filth it was, if anything, even more enjoyable. This was Filth's wife, Betty's story, very cleverly matching Filth's account yet managing to be quite different. I can't wait to read Filth's enemy, Veneering's story in Last Friends. And I just may want to re-read Old Filth. Gardam's style is sparing without being meagre, allowing the reader to use their imagination in many scenes that a more wordy writer would have described in long drawn out detail. A wonderful series that I can recommend highly.

My take on the title is that it is an obscure reference to a wooden statue Betty and Veneering saw in a gallery, and that had a parallel, in a way, to the hat worn by Filth's friend, Albert "Loss" (claims he can't pronounce R) who stored his playing cards (and more?) in his hat. ( )
  VivienneR | Dec 10, 2014 |
I loved this book just as much as I did Old Filth. This is mostly Betty's story, and just like Filth's, it is a bittersweet, funny, and moving story of an individual in search of herself. As a portrait of love and marriage, with all the attendant flaws and misunderstandings and missed opportunities, it is spot on and told with warmth and humor. A very wise and wonderful novel. ( )
  katiekrug | Sep 12, 2014 |
A rather curious novel about the marriage of an English barrister in Hong Kong.
  ritaer | Aug 16, 2014 |
Excellent story telling. Enjoyed this more than Old Filth. ( )
  sianpr | May 13, 2014 |
The Man in the Wooden Hat is told from Betty's, Old Filth's wife, point of view. It depicts a young Betty becoming engaged via letter to Edward Feathers a.k.a Old Filth. However, while accompanying him to a party she lays eyes on Terry Veneering, Filth's long time adversary, and is smitten. That same night they have relations with Betty vowing she won't get married to Filth.

Except that she does but still holds a torch for Veneering as he does her. After suffering a miscarriage, she becomes even more attached to Veneering's son, Harry. She visits him when it looks like one of his legs might be amputated and gives him a significant amount of money for his gambling debts. Harry is a surrogate son for Betty.

Naturally, she is understandably crushed when he is killed in the line of duty. Once again, she resolves to leave Filth once and for all...except she doesn't and channels all of her energy into gardening and decides to bury her "guilty pearls" from Veneering into her garden. Betty finally declares it's too late to leave him and dies. After that it's a quick summary of the events of Old Filth's sort of aging friendship with Veneering until the latter dies. Filth follows him some time after that.

I know The Man in the Wooden Hat is told from Betty's point of view but I never really got the sense of Betty unlike Old Filth did with the titular character. She wasn't as sexually repressed as Old Filth was but she was as emotionally repressed with people her own age. That yearning for children of her own helped her establish a relationship with Harry.

With the exception of her miscarriage, my heart never really went out for Betty. In fact, I felt bad for Filth even more because Betty was such a bitch to him at times. He had abandonment issues and she had some issue that made her more fickle than the weather.

I tried really hard to like her and I once did in the first book despite the cheating but now I pretty much can't stand her and said good riddance once she perished. Despite my misgivings, I thought the book was well written by Gardam. ( )
  Y2Ash | Apr 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (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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"Old, forgotten far-off things
and battles long ago."
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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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