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 Gardams 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 Wooden Hat.
Old Filth was Eddies story. The Man in the Wooden Hat is the history of his marriage told from the perspective of his wife, Betty, a character as vivid and enchanting as Filth himself.
They met in Hong Kong after the war. Betty had spent the duration in a Japanese internment camp. Filth was already a successful barrister, handsome, fast becoming rich, in need of a wife but unaccustomed to romance. A perfect English couple of the late 1940s.
As a portrait of a marriage, with all the bittersweet secrets and surprising fulfillment of the 50-year union of two remarkable people, the novel is a triumph. The Man in the Wooden Hat is fiction of a very high order from a great novelist working at the pinnacle of her considerable power. It will be read and loved and recommended by all the many thousands of readers who found its predecessor, Old Filth, so compelling and so thoroughly satisfying.
In this companion piece to the compelling and defiantly funny Old Filth, Gardam adds layers of nuance to the lives and relationships of Edward, known as Eddie, and Elizabeth (Betty) Feathers. While Old Filth is narrated primarily from Eddie's point of view, The Man in the Wooden Hat focuses more on Elizabeth, and cannily asks whether we can ever truly know anyone, even ourselves. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The New Yorker
Like Gardam’s other novels, this work has satiric charm, but, just as the lovers never crack one another’s “unassailable privacy,” Gardam never lets the reader meaningfully trespass on their inner lives.
The Washington Post
As to Gardam's pair of novels, what the old song says about love and marriage must be said about them: You can't have one without the other. They are a set, his and hers. To my taste, they are absolutely wonderful, and I would find it impossible to choose one over the other.
NPR - Maureen Corrigan
Together, Old Filth and The Man in the Wooden Hat compose a vivid diptych of a marriage. You don't have to read Old Filth first, though you'll enjoy the plot surprises in this latest novel more if you do.
Starred Review. 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.
Starred Review... Gardam speaks volumes about her heroine, and she offers a quiet elegy for an entire generation. Funny, intelligent and immensely moving.
An elegant portrait of an old-world marriage. Highly recommended.
The Times (UK)
This book works perfectly in its own right, but if you haven’t already read Old Filth, do so first: like their two protagonists, they are greater than the sum of their parts.
The Telegraph (UK)
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.
The Spectator (UK)
Delicious is a word that keeps coming to mind as one reads Jane Gardam’s new novel. Delicious and poignant.
The Stanley Internment Camp
Although Elizabeth does not talk about her experience in a
Japanese internment camp during World War II except to mention that her parents
died there, its memory definitely colors her feelings about Hong Kong. While
we do not know for sure, it seems likely that the camp she was interned in was
the Stanley Civilian Camp - a non-segregated camp in the grounds of Stanley
Prison and the neighboring secondary school, St Stephen's College, on the
southern end of Hong Kong's main island. The camp was home to about 2500-2800
civilian men, women and children from January 1942 to August 1945 when the
According to Kevin Blackburn in his book
Forgotten Captives in Japanese Occupied Asia, within the first six months
of the beginning of the war in the Pacific the Japanese captured over 132,000
enemy nationals, of whom some 50,000 were British. Over the duration of the war
(1941-1945) they experienced a 25% death rate overall. At Stanley the death rate
was not as high, around 10%, and was...
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