Myles's Reviews > The Man in the Wooden Hat

The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam
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Mar 20, 11

Read on March 20, 2011

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Myles This is the sequel to Old Filth, about the life and loves of Eddie Feathers. Feathers is the son of a British governor in what is now Malaysia. His mother died in child-birth and his father sends him to cold England to get his formal education where he e...ventually becomes a lowly-ranked litigator in London's bombed out City after WWII. This work opens with Eddie having gained fame and fortune as a lawyer in the Far East and about to marry another orphan, Betty, a product of the Japanese internment camps. It is a short novel but full of interesting turns in plot. I don't want to spoil the plot for you, but there is a certain spookiness to the story. For one thing, Betty and Feathers' lives seem to be controlled by a shadowy, dwarfish Asian character, Albert Ross. Ross gives Feathers the entry he needs to grow into one of the leading lawyers of his age, and which eventually leads to his role as a top judge. Ross helps Feathers become wealthy, but he also guards him against folly and enemies. He is the man in the wooden hat. I would say that there is an ominous power about Ross and Feathers that don't fully reveal themselves in the story. They are ruthless and fully in control. Author Jane Gardham is very grown up about the world. Important things don't get done without these teams of lawyers and technicians and businessmen working in the background. They are making laws, they are settling disputes, they are dividing up the spoils of the land. Betty plays an important role in the drama, but maybe not the role she thinks or approves of. Her role wasn't clear in the first book, and while it gets painted in somewhat in the second, it still isn't entirely clear by the end. The first book interestingly begins with lawyers reflecting on the death of Eddie Feathers, known as Old Filth to his colleagues. And the second book rounds back to this starting point. The second fills in some of the questions left over from the first, such as exactly why Feathers sees his opponent Terry Veneering in such sinister terms, and the irony of Veneering coming to live in the village house immediately next door to Filth in the English countryside. Filth and Betty retire to England at the end of their lives, but their heart and their passion lay in the mysterious, teeming, hot and sweaty East. Because there are things you can do in the East that you can't in England. Because you can live and love and dream. Gardam is a terrific novelist. She doesn't preach. She also doesn't hold back. I can't wait for the next installment in this series. And more funny names.

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