The Man In The Wooden Hat
‘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.
One of the few feats that's harder than doing justice to a complicated marriage is doing justice to it twice. ..On its own, The Man in the Wooden Hat is funny and affecting, but read alongside Old Filth, it's remarkable * New York Times * Delicious and poignant . . . there are rich complexities of chronology, settings and characters, all manipulated with marvellous dexterity * Spectator * [A] delicious new novel . . . Gardam's writing is lyrical and never strains . . . brimming with a celebratory attitude to language * Financial Times * The characters tell their own stories through flashes of thought and perfectly pitched dialogue * Independent on Sunday * People and places, the past and the present, are woven into threads of narrative which, drawn together, give the writing a marvellous lilting power. This novel and its predecessor, Old Filth, have a symbiotic relationship: they are hugely enjoyable entities in their own right but the sum of them adds up to something more than the parts. Together the novels offer a view of England refracted through its colonial past . . . Childhood, home and exile are constantly recurring themes but the real subject is love * Richard Eyre, 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 * Gardam's writing is like painting on glass: vivid and translucent * Independent * A supremely literary and youthful book * Sunday Times * What Gardam is particularly good at - and what made Old Filth so compelling - is creating for her characters facades 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 *
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