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The Man in the Wooden Hat (Old Filth Trilogy Book 2) by [Gardam, Jane]
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The Man in the Wooden Hat (Old Filth Trilogy Book 2) Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 142 customer reviews

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Length: 289 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Octogenarian Gardam's latest, told with quintessentially British humor, bookends the two-time Whitbread winner's earlier novel, Old Filth, about a barrister who becomes a renowned lawyer in the Far East whose nickname, Filth, speaks volumes: failed in London, try Hong Kong. This book concentrates on the courtship and marriage of Filth and his wife, Betty, and then flits across the years to their final days, revealing a backstory of secret trysts and desires that each concealed from the other during their long, childless marriage. Filth and Betty's early days in Hong Kong tingle with the weight of the past: Betty spent the war starving in a Japanese internment camp in Shanghai; Filth talks in his sleep in the passionate Malay of his childhood. The supporting characters in their steamy, crowded world are a bizarre lot (a card-flinging Chinese dwarf among them). Gardam's prose is witty and precise, and the hole in the middle of the story is obviously to be filled by reading (or rereading) Old Filth. (Nov.)
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About the Author

Over her long and successful career, Jane Gardam has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize (for Old Filth in 2005) and for the Booker Prize (for God on the Rocks) and is the only writer to have been twice awarded the prize for Whitbread Novel of the Year (for The Hollow Land and Queen of the Tambourine). She also holds a Heywood Hill Literary Prize for a lifetime's contribution to the enjoyment of literature. As well as an acclaimed novelist, she is a writer of short stories, most recently The People on Privilege Hill, whose title story was runner-up in the BBC National Short Story Award and was read on Radio 4. Jane Gardam was awarded the OBE in the 2009 New Year's Honours lists for services to literature. She was born in Yorkshire and lives in Kent.

Product Details

  • File Size: 569 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions (October 27, 2009)
  • Publication Date: October 27, 2009
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0049U4K4O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,439 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
Esteemed novelist Jane Gardam follows up on the success of Old Filth, her highly successful 2005 novel about the life and marriage of Sir Edward Feathers, with the companion story of Sir Edward's wife, Betty. Each novel benefits from the other, the sum being significantly greater than the combination of the parts, and together they are a stunning study of a marriage--not ideal, but "workable." Feathers grew up unloved in Malaya, where his father was stationed. A Raj orphan by the age of six, he was sent back to England, where he went on to school, began a law career, and lived up to the old adage: "Failed in London, Tried Hong Kong," hence his nickname of "Filth." He never knew what it was like to be loved and cherished for who he was, and he always felt that he was an "outsider."

Betty, someone we really see for the first time in this novel, is also a product of the same time, place, and class. Living in Hong Kong, she sees Edward as "So pure...[though] there's something missing." More importantly, however, she believes, "He's very nice. And he needs me." Her friends all argue against her engagement to him, at least at this point, and even Betty has some doubts. After exploring the possibilities of real passion with someone more exciting, she finally decides that marriage to Edward "will not be romantic, but who wants that," a compromise which she believes will result in an overall improvement in her life.

Though neither Edward nor Betty is "in love" when they get married, they manage to form a good relationship and strong bond, considering the limitations of each.
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This is true literature - moving, thought-provoking, oddly humorous, utterly riveting - and the strangest love story I've ever read.

A technical tour de force as well, the novel is the backstory of Gardam's earlier book, OLD FILTH. That book describes a marriage from the point of view of the husband (Sir Edward Feathers). Here, we get the story from his wife Betty's perspective.

Both have had shocking experiences early in life, he a Raj orphan abandoned by his father and otherwise mistreated, she a survivor of a Japanese internment camp in Shanghai. Betty agrees to marry Edward because he's a brilliant advocate, getting richer every day, wildly handsome and thoroughly good. An hour later she meets his arch rival, advocate Terry Veneering, and falls passionately in love. Ironies abound as their lives unfold from this point.

The man in the wooden hat is Edward's best friend - eccentric Chinese dwarf and mysterious power in international law who becomes a kind of terrifying manifestation of Betty's conscience.

Gardam perfectly captures the poignant imperfection of humankind. Her characters develop under the sensuous influence of exotic places and the chilling influence of the very best British society. Awash in guilt and unspoken conflicts, Sir Feathers and his wife often manage to be happy. Anyone who has ever had a contrary impulse should find this book rather cheering.

I'd recommend reading OLD FILTH first, then quickly leaping into THE MAN WITH THE WOODEN HAT.
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[3.5 stars] Even happy marriages are seldom simple. In this gentle novel, Jane Gardam revisits the lifelong marriage of Sir Edward Feathers QC, the distinguished judge who was the subject of her magnificent OLD FILTH (the acronym stands for "Failed in London, Try Hong Kong"). But this time, she tells the story from the point of view of Feathers' wife, Betty, completing a diptych much in the manner of Evan Connell's MR. BRIDGE and MRS. BRIDGE. Born in Shanghai and interned by the Japanese, Betty somehow gets to finish her schooling in London and Oxford and do war work as a cryptographer before returning to China where she meets her future husband in Hong Kong. The date is now around 1950, but the chronology is difficult to disentangle. Eddie Feathers is a brilliant young advocate, though emotionally repressed; he needs Betty, but has difficulty opening to that need. She admires and respects him, but enters the marriage with little expectation of passion. Nonetheless, their bond endures, bringing a kind of contentment to them both; the story is essentially a series of flashbacks following Betty's death around 2000, while quietly planting tulips in her English country garden.

Jane Gardam writes with grace and understanding; whatever its weaknesses, this relatively undemanding novel is still a pleasure to read, which is why I give it four stars. But rating it on its own merits, I just don't know that it can stand on its own without OLD FILTH before it.
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