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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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6013116,282 (3.99)243
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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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 |
Getting to know intimately one half of a married couple can ill prepare you for meeting the other half, who may fail to live up to their superior advance billing, or, as likely, be so surprisingly normal—even pleasant—that you mistrust your own memory of past marital revelations. Award-winning British writer Jane Gardem’s books Old Filth (from the husband’s point of view) and The Man in the Wooden Hat (the wife’s) apply these different lenses to the same 50-year marriage.
I’ve read only this one, published in 2009, but went back to reviews of Old Filth (2006) and found that many of the animating events in the couple’s life are described in both novels. While the bones of the relationship remain the same, “Little here is as it seemed in ‘Old Filth,’ and both books are the richer for it,” said Louisa Thomas in her New York Times review.
The sobriquet Old Filth—created by and applied to talented barrister Edward Feathers, later Sir Edward—is an acronym for “Failed In London, Try HongKong.” Try there, he does, and succeeds. Also in Hong Kong, his future wife Elisabeth Macintosh debates whether to marry him, decides to, and carries through at rather a slap-dash pace in ancient borrowed finery. Eddie’s preoccupation is that Betty should never leave him, and she promises she won’t. This is a promise Betty learns will be enforced by Edward’s best friend, the card-playing Chinese dwarf Albert Ross (“Albatross”): “If you leave him, I will break you,” Ross threatens, and she is sure he means it.
The wedding ceremony follows by a few hours a one-night affair, in which Betty is deflowered by Eddie’s nemesis, rival barrister Terry Veneering. Trust Charles Dickens to recognize an allusive name when he hears one; like the nouveau riche social climbers in Our Mutual Friend, this Veneering has a charming surface. His attraction Betty lasts for decades, and he weaves in and out of the story of the couple’s marriage.
While a story of interpersonal relationships, the book takes place after World War II, and is necessarily revelatory about broad social upheavals in Britain. Class and privilege are never the same after the unraveling of Empire, the economic upheavals of the decade before the war, and the war itself. The world into which the three protagonists were born simply disappeared beneath their feet and dissolved out of their arms.
The novel follows the couple from youth to old age, with Betty’s death planting tulips in their rural garden. Mostly, though, it focuses on their early relationship, including the tragedy of a miscarriage that leaves Betty unable to have her heart’s desire, children. The closest relationship she maintains with a young person is with Veneering’s precocious son, Harry, whom she meets when he is nine years old and “crunching a lobster” under the table at a banquet. She has numerous lively and colorful friends in Hong Kong and later in London, whose appearance in the narrative is always welcome.
As for the everyday relationship between the spouses, the reader is shown the benefits of accommodation rather than the head-to-head battles that often characterize such books.
Well plotted and carefully written, full of good humor and getting on with it. A third book in the Old Filth trilogy, Last Friends, was published in 2013. It’s a view of the Feathers’s marriage from Veneering’s point of view. Now that should be interesting! ( )
  Vicki_Weisfeld | Dec 15, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (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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