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The Man In The Wooden Hat

Jane Gardam

4 Reviews

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Fiction, Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

Another masterpiece from Jane Gardam and the second novel in the Old Filth trilogy

'It's a cliche to compare novelists to Jane Austen, but in the case of Jane Gardam it happens to be true. Her diamond-like prose, her understanding of the human heart, her formal inventiveness and her sense of what it is to be alive - young, old, lonely, in love - never fades' Amanda Craig

'Her work, like Sylvia Townsend Warner's, has that appealing combination of elegance, erudition and flinty wit' Patrick Gale


Filth (Failed In London, Try Hong Kong) is a successful lawyer when he marries Elisabeth in Hong Kong soon after the War. Reserved, immaculate and courteous, Filth finds it hard to demonstrate his emotions. But Elisabeth is different - a free spirit. She was brought up in the Japanese Internment Camps, which killed both her parents but left her with a lust for survival and an affinity with the Far East. No wonder she is attracted to Filth's hated rival at the Bar - the brash, forceful Veneering. Veneering has a Chinese wife and an adored son - and no difficulty whatsoever in demonstrating his emotions . . .

How Elisabeth turns into Betty and whether she remains loyal to stolid Filth or is swept up by caddish Veneering, makes for a page-turning plot in a perfect novel which is full of surprises and revelations, as well as the humour and eccentricites for which Jane Gardam's writing is famous.

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Praise for The Man In The Wooden Hat

  • A supremely literary and youthful book - Sunday Times

  • Gardam's writing is like painting on glass: vivid and translucent - Independent

  • What Gardam is particularly good at - and what made Old Filth so compelling - is creating for her characters fa ades of complete conventionality, which are then chipped away to reveal strange internal workings...But one need not be familiar with Filth's history to be moved by Betty's final summation of her long marriage...in a novel preoccupied by the fear of becoming old, anachronistic and obsolete, this late-flowering love stands as a reminder that time does not just decay, it ripens too - Olivia Laing, Guardian

  • What a lot Jane Gardam knows about love and its accommodations; the rich contradictory play of desire and loyalty, the sudden storms of feeling that assail the edifice of a marriage. And how elegantly and intelligently and kindly she writes about the instinctive, tendril-like gropings of one human heart towards another - Jane Shilling, Telegraph

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Jane Gardam

Jane Gardam has been awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for a lifetime's contribution to the enjoyment of literature; has twice won a Whitbread Award and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

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