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The Man in the Wooden Hat (Old Filth #2)

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  2,084 ratings  ·  430 reviews
The New York Times called Sir Edward Feathers one of the most memorable characters in modern literature. A lyrical novel that recalls his fully lived life, Old Filth has been acclaimed as Jane Gardam's masterpiece, a book where life and art merge. And now that beautiful, haunting novel has been joined by a companion that also bursts with humor and wisdom: The Man in the Wo ...more
Paperback, 233 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by Europa Editions (first published 2009)
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The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel BarberyA Novel Bookstore by Laurence CosséThe Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina BronskyOld Filth by Jane GardamThe Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam
Europa Edition Books
5th out of 71 books — 86 voters
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel BarberyFrom the Land of the Moon by Milena AgusA Novel Bookstore by Laurence CosséSomeone I Loved by Anna GavaldaThe Time in Between by María Dueñas
Best of Europa Editions
12th out of 12 books — 15 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Alicia
Just so you know where my prejudices lie: I read Old Filth then Man in the Wooden Hat and fell in love with Jane Gardam. So I am astonished to read negative reviews of Wooden Hat. In it, Gardam goes where so very few writers do.

Perhaps because I am no longer young, this book spoke clearly to me of the compromises, the subtle adjustments, the losses and the satisfactions of the flexible definition of 'love' over a lifetime. Because the characters are English and of a class and time where outburs
...more
Chrissie
I don’t know how to properly explain about this book. I KNOW I really, really liked it. Why? Well because it spoke to my heart about marital relationships. The problems everyone has, even if you love each other! You don’t have to be a person like either Betty or Eddie to still recognize yourself or your spouse through their relationship. It is about balancing two people’s personalities because there are always differences. The book shows you a long marriage and how it changes with time….and in s ...more
Jack London
If I am limited to recommend only one book, I urge you to read these two books. Jane Gardem writes prose that begins gently, invitingly, leading you to the next page and the next, never permitting you to notice that you have been drawn in to her story because all the while you read a part of your mind is asking whether ‘that could have been me….’
Old Filth has almost nothing to do with filth but, rather, is the life revisited of a British attorney who Failed in London, Tried Hong Kong. Sir Edwar
...more
Courtney
This book is a companion to "Old Filth," just as "Man in the Wooden Hat" protagonist Betty Feathers is a companion to the central character of the other novel, Edward Feathers.

It starts with Betty's decision to marry Edward, a charming man she hardly knows. She is 28, a virgin, an orphan, with few marital options and no money (well, until she turns 30 and her inheritance is unleashed). Edward, she can tell, is a good, caring man who will provide for her, even if he is deeply private and unlikel
...more
Robert Teasdale
Never heard of this author, but it was recommended by Bas Bleu and I bit...God, what a leap of literate faith...and it turned out so well....Ms. Gardam wrote a book - literature, mind you, no murder mysteries, no bodies floating in the river, no graphic sex, literature - about a young man in post WW II who took the bar in England, but never really "made it"...just wasn't cut out for the big trials of London, so became "Old Filth" an acronmyn for Failed In London, Try HongKong......and his story ...more
Ann
This is a companion to Gardam's superb "Old Filth." It's a worthy companion, because it fills in all kinds of holes that you didn't even know were there, painting a very different and fascinating picture of the same characters. It's beautifully written,, but I preferred "Old Filth" for its deep and narrow focus on Edward; this book is about his wife Betty but also about all the other characters in "Filth" and thus seemed to lose a little of "Filth"'s extraordinary intensity. On the other hand, i ...more
Sue
Wonderful companion piece to Old Filth, providing Betty's view of their shared history and some new information on the later days of Edward Feathers' existence after Betty's death. To say much is probably to say too much but the English pre and post-war character as presented here appears to have many issues with belonging, trust, love, family. Betty and Eddie were both children of loss who found each other for better or worse and had their own style of love-filled marriage.

This is a must read f
...more
Lisa
The Man in the Wooden Hat is Jane Gardam's follow-up to her novel Old Filth. Both novels examine the marriage of a up-and-coming barrister and his seemingly dutiful wife, Sir Edward and Elisabeth Feathers. Both have been stunted by their youth as products of the dying modern colonialism. OF focuses on Sir Edward's life while leaving the reader with enough hints to be sure that there is a great deal more to Betty. Thankfully, this volume lets the reader into Betty's world. For the two, marriage i ...more
Angela
Jul 19, 2010 Angela rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Angela by: nytimes review
In The Man in the Wooden Hat, Gardam returns to the story of Eddie and Betty Feathers's lives and marriage as English expats in Hong Kong introduced in Old Filth. I expected the story to shine a whole new light on the events of the first novel, creating a more complex whole. Perhaps expectations were a bit high, and there is less new information here than one might hope. This is meant to be Betty's story, but for that it talks very little about her life before meeting Feathers. Her relationship ...more
Alta
Aug 01, 2011 Alta added it
Jane Gardam’s Man in the Wooden Hat (2009) is a sequel to Old Filfth (2006), though both novels can be read independently. The Man…is written from the perspective of Betty, married to Sir Edward Feathers, while Old Filth (Filth being an acronym for “Failed in London, Try Hong Kong”) is told from Filth’s point of view.

The Man in the Wooden Hat is one of those novels that are hard to summarize because what “happens” resides mostly in the interaction between characters—a character-driven story, as
...more
Huw Rhys
I really liked the "other half" of this story, Jane Gardam's earlier novel, "Old Filth". But I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what this book was all about.

Jane Gardam writes with intelligence and authority, therefore some people (including her publishers) must have felt that there was some deep literary merit to this diatribe. It's a novel by Jane Gardam, she's won all sorts of awards, therefore by definition this will be a worthy tome...

Well, this wasn't. I could give a dozen different theo
...more
Gary  the Bookworm
This is the sequel to.Old Filth; the yin to his yang. It seems shorter and more direct, giving us Betty Feather's take on her long, mostly happy marriage to Edward. We learn much more about him, by seeing him through her eyes, and fall in love with both of them. Each of their childhoods was marred by tragedy and neither had strong family ties. While their marriage seemed like one of convenience, we see it evolve into an enduring bond of mutual love and respect. It reminded me something out of Gr ...more
Rachel
Gobbled this up after reading "Old Filth" and discovering that Gardam had written a companion novel from the point of view of Old Filth's wife, Betty. An ingenious, intriguing idea -- two novels about the same marriage. But it fell short of my expectations (and that may have been part of the problem, since "Old Filth" set them so high). The writing is still great, the story is still engaging, and the characters are still compelling, but somehow I felt that Gardam did not "get" Betty -- capture h ...more
Laura
Apr 19, 2014 Laura rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Made for 4 Extra. Dramatisation of award-winning author Jane Gardam's novel. Marriage and secrets begin in 1950s Hong Kong. Stars Michael York.
K
In an excellent follow-up to Old Filth, Jane Gardam retells the story from the perspective of Filth's wife, Betty. I enjoyed Mrs. Bridge and was told not to bother with Mr Bridge; in this case, though, I actually enjoyed the follow-up-from-the-spouse's-perspective more than the original. This may be because The Man in the Wooden Hat was more linear and easier for me to follow than Old Filth was. That being said, I think it's worthwhile to read both. While The Man in the Wooden Hat would probably ...more
David
This is the complement to Jane Gardam's earlier account of the marriage of Edward and Betty Feathers. "Old Filth" was Edward's story; this book tells things from Betty's perspective. Think of Evan Connell's paired novels "Mr Bridge" and "Mrs Bridge".

"Old Filth" was already a masterpiece. "The Man in the Wooden Hat" is equally good. It can stand on its own merits, but the extra details it reveals about the relationships among the main characters will make you want to re-read "Old Filth".
Callie
Callie Ngaluafe "To be married is to have a partner in loneliness."

Quick--who said that? Me! It came to mind while I was reading this book. It's the story of a marriage between British expats in Hong Kong. They are married in the 1950s and then you see how things go for the next several decades. They are upper class (he's a lawyer and gets all kinds of promotions through the British system, which I don't understand) and definitely British and typical of their generation. The night before they ar
...more
Elliot Ratzman
“Love, thought Elisabeth. Adoration. Was it all just theatre?” This is the most romantic account of a sexless marriage I have read. Passionate love often ends in a ring or tears or both; it’s nice to read about a love of endurance without passion but with much kindness—lessons for us all. Award-winning author Jane Gardam’s “sequel” to “Old Filth” (Filth meaning: Failed in London; Try Hong Kong) “The Man in the Wooden Hat” is written with the wife of the lawyer Edmund Feathers (Old Filth) in the ...more
Kp
It was really fun to read this after having read Old Filth. It really filled in a lot of the blanks and gave a fuller perspective to the lives of both Betty and Old Filth. I'm not sure how I would have liked the book without having read the first one, however. As it was, I found this one easier to read because I DID have the background of the first book.

There sure were a lot of old secrets that both the characters carried around with them. And I don't really understand how the attraction to Ven
...more
Leon
I’ve been a fan of Jane Gardam’s writing ever since I came upon her early books in the British Council Library, like God on the Rocks. I found her stories very moving and her writing very accessible and well-wrought. I still do, especially now, with her latest novel, The Man in the Wooden Hat.


She has reprised her most successful character since Faith Fox, one Edward Feathers. He first appeared as the main character in Old Filth a few years back. The novel was shortlisted for the Booker 2004 but
...more
Jeffrey Rasley
I can only hope that the reason this book is so poorly written is that Ms. Gardam was under pressure to publish and didn't give a damn about the quality. I loved "Old Filth". I could hardly wait to read the companion "The Man in the Wooden Hat". I can't remember the last time I was so disappointed.

I thought, at first, I was just upset because Betty betrays Eddie without any apprehensible reason and, in my view, wholly inconsistent with Betty's character. I liked both characters very much in "Old
...more
William
Jane Gardam is one of those authors about whom I suspect you could say - pick up any of her books - they're all great... but make sure you read Old Filth / The Man in the Wooden Hat before you die. Her characters are unforgettable - with only a few carefully chosen words they spring to life in all their complexity. Not only do feel that we know them - we feel that we have known them. Betty, who values loyalty and security but secretly longs for a bit of passion and excitement and is cruelly deni ...more
John
Unlike "Old Filth" where Eddie's character is fairly thoroughly examined, Betty remained fairly unknown to me - for one thing, the bit about her time in Japanese camps is frustratingly alluded to a couple of times, but otherwise completely dropped. Tough to say more without invoking spoilers.
I strongly recommend the book for its descriptions of Hong Kong, as well as the minor characters (who interested me more than Betty herself). Until the end, I had seen these two novels as completely compleme
...more
Pattie
It's rare that a single line in a book kicks me in the stomach, but I'm giving this 5 stars just for the line: "Elizabeth thought: And it is just one hour too late."

It also gets 5 stars for the evocation of the Dexter's house where Betty stays to recuperate; I felt as if I had spent time there myself (and had an unnatural longing to spend a few weeks there right now).

There's also the sweet sense of nostalgia which hangs over so much of the story - even while they're living it, the characters kn
...more
Kasa Cotugno
It's not often that I close a book with an audible sigh. This is Betty's story, but it is also the culmination of the story of Edward Feathers as told in Old Filth. If you haven't read that wonderful book yet, read it first before this one. Like the Alexandria Quartet, like Roshomon, both novels should be taken as a whole to give the entire satisfying picture. Threaded through this narrative are snapshots into a future readers of Old Filth will recognize, but which are completed and given the en ...more
Lauren
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
...more
Alison Dellit
More plot driven than it's predecessor Old Filth, this book seemed slightly brisker, and slightly more interested in intriguing the reader. The prose was still langourous and beautiful, but I didn't get the same richness as from the previous. This may be, of course, because I have limited tolerance for stories of women who fall in love with men they don't seem to like, for no reason apparent to me.

I am eagerly awaiting the third in the trilogy. The characterisations, inexplicable love affairs as
...more
Suzanne
I liked this book, but the title is an enigma. I know when the "Hat" mentioned, but I find it offputting.
Anyway, I read this immediately after Old Filth, another good novel with a bad name. I found Old Hat to be a great companion book to Old Filth. So many questions are answered. I will reread old Filth.
the writing was beautiful and evocative.
Who knew, Betty, Feathers' wife had such a rich secret life? The love triangle has an interesting conclusion. I guess this novel is like finding an old dia
...more
Alice Meloy
A classy tale of a marriage of an English couple in the Far East, beginning shortly after the Second World War. As a companion novel to Gardam's earlier OLD FILTH, this story examines the couple's courtship and marriage from Betty's perspective. Idealistic and romantic, Betty and Old Filth find their ways through life, carrying secrets from their pasts, back and forth between Hong Kong and England. It's a slim novel that covers a lot of ground, and Gardam's stylish prose gets to the heart of thi ...more
Suzette
Excellent portrayal of marriage in the 50s and 60s. "Old Filth" is the male perspective of the marriage and this is the female perspective. Highly recommend reading both.
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Jane Mary Gardam OBE is a British author of children's and adult fiction. She also reviews for the Spectator and the Telegraph, and writes for BBC radio. She lives in Kent, Wimbledon and Yorkshire. She has won numerous literary awards including the Whitbread Award, twice. She is mother of Tim Gardam, Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford. Jane has been awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for ...more
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