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The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam

After reading the first of Jane Gardam’s pair of books featuring the exploits of Sir Edward Feathers, Old Filth, I finally got around to reading the second called The Man in the Wooden Hat on a recent holiday. They are interesting in that they are not a series as such and one does not follow on from the other, so strictly speaking you don’t actually need to have read Old Filth to enjoy The Man in the Wooden Hat, but they certainly complement each other and offer two different perspectives covering the same time period. Both are interesting and highly entertaining books.

Read on for a full review…

-- The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam a Review by Des Greene --

This novel as mentioned above, is not actually a sequel to Old Filth, and it also tells the story of Edward Feathers, however this time more from the perspective of his wife Betty. Following their marriage in from what we can deduce is the early nineteen fifties, we get to find out more about not only Betty but also many of the other characters in Filth’s sphere, particularly his arch rival Veneering.

Filth is an intriguing character, and it is easy to feel sympathy and exasperation for him in equal measure. Though brilliant, he seems oblivious to so much of what goes on around him, and although he clearly loves her, he appears equally oblivious to his wife. Is this really the case? Or does Filth see more than he lets on? It is this premise that effectively provides a backdrop for the mysteries, plot twists and revelations that the book treats us to right up until the final page. The wooden hatted man in the title is one Albert Ross or “Loss” as he is more frequently called, who has been a friend and benefactor to Filth since he was a teenager. His influence on proceedings, and on Filth’s entire adult life is evident throughout the book, and he also adds an interesting shady element to the storyline.

Style wise, the novel very effectively evokes a vivid picture of the era, and the feelings of regret amongst the old-timers at the fading of the British Empire and that things will clearly never be the same again for better or worse.

Annoyingly there are a number of errors in the book itself, and also some bits of plot that do not line up correctly with that of Old Filth. The crash of a British Airways flight in the early fifties for example, a quarter of a century before the airline came into existence. I also wondered about Betty, a non-graduate of possibly only eighteen years of age securing a position as a code breaker at Bletchley Park. I suppose it may be possible, but it stretched my credulity a little.

Those little gripes aside I did enjoy both books, and again, although it is not essential, I would recommend you to read Old Filth first to obtain maximum enjoyment.

Already read The Man in the Wooden Hat? What did you think of it? Please post a comment below, Novel Suggestions is always keen to hear your opinions.

Novel Suggestions only provides fiction book reviews of books that we personally recommend. We don’t spend our valuable time writing reviews of books which we feel would be a waste of your valuable time!


  1. Kathy Nevins says:

    In The Man in the Wooden Hat, at Sir Edward’s funeral at the very end of the book, Loss or the “dwarf” attends the funeral. However, in the book Old Filth, Sir Edward says that Loss died on 9/11, a passenger on one of the planes (pg. 273). How is this possible?

    1. Des says:

      Hi Kathy, I tend to agree (as I commented in the review) that there are a number of annoying mistakes in the book. My own favourite was the crash of the BA flight, as they were still BOAC and BEA back then. That aside I still enjoyed both books.

      Thanks very much for taking the time to leave a comment!

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