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The Green Hat
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1001 book reviews > The Green Hat by Michael Arlen

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Diane | 2022 comments Rating: 3 stars


This is a romance centering on a young widow in 1920's London. The setting is reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, which was published shortly thereafter. The language is lovely, and I liked the underlying plot. I did feel, however, that the both narrator and the addition of some unnecessary characters detracted from the story line.


Kristel (kristelh) | 3965 comments Mod
The Green Hat was written by a Armenian author, naturalized citizen of the United Kingdom and published in the London and the US in 1924. I read a 1924 edition, ILL loan book. As I mentioned, the pages were quite fragile. I am so thankful for libraries and ILL loans that make it possible to read these books. The Green Hat tells the story of Iris Storm. It is a satirical romance set in London. Iris is prevented from marrying her childhood sweetheart Napier Harpenden. She is widowed twice and suffers through several love affairs. There is so much tragedy that you just know there is going to be more and therefore there is an element of suspense in this modernistic novel. The narrator is a writer and introduces self, “writes the author”. Many authors and literary works are mentioned in the early chapters. I just finished reading Tono-Bongay by H. G. Wells and this book mentions H. G. Wells and mentions his book Tono-Bongay. It also mentions The Good Soldier and Ulysses. Also of note is the bigotry in the book. The author refers to Jews, Red Indians and glorious n……
***contains some spoilers***
Iris is of the March family. Her twin brother is a drunk and she meets the author when she tries to visit her twin brother. This book is full of suicides and telling lies to save honor. After her first husband dies by suicide, Iris tells everyone he died “for purity”. Everyone assumes that Iris wasn’t pure when she went to her marriage bed and her husband therefore jumped out the window. Her second husband gives her an emerald that doesn’t fit and tells her that she must learn to keep the ring on as she must learn to keep herself from affairs. That husband dies too. So Iris wears a large brimmed green hat and wears a green ring. There is a lot of green in the descriptions of clothing and scenes. Iris drove a yellow Hispano-Suiza car with a stork hood adornment. She drove fast. Iris decides that she will not let anyone keep her from Napier any longer. They are going to run away together and finally enjoy the love they have for each other. Only Napier is too much like his father and his concern for his own reputation makes him tell everyone what Iris meant when she told everyone her husband had died “for purity”. In the end, Napier fails her and Napier’s father wins the battle. Iris leaves with her green hat in her exotic car that “can do 76 if you like”. This book may have been written in 1924 I still found it to be very enjoyable story of high-speed modernity. The book has been republished by it has been republished by Capuchin Classics and I would recommend it if you like tragedy, romance and modernity.


message 3: by Liz M (new) - added it

Liz M | 194 comments Why it is included in the 1001 list: "Arlen's writing style, with its ambiguous, elliptical descriptions, is clearly influenced by modernism, while the imagery offers some particularly stark, oddly dislocated depictions resembling imagism."

The wearing of the green hat is the infamous Iris Storm. A woman from the former wealthy March family has had two disastrous marriages and now gallivants around Europe (in her yellow Hispano-Suiza) charming everyone she meets.

The narrator first meets her when she pays an impromptu, middle of the night, call on the narrator's upstairs neighbor, her estranged brother. Fascinated by her and her mysteriousness, he questions various acquaintances, slowly revealing her tragic background story. Iris's plot revolves around the narrator's chance meetings with her in ever more melodramatic circumstances.

I found this novel oddly delightful. While the story is ridiculing more typical tragic romances of it's time, some of which went over my head, the slightly offbeat style and unusual turns of phrase were rather charming.


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