D J Taylor

Playing Devil’s Advocate

The Man in the Wooden Hat


Chatto & Windus 213pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Buried in one of Thackeray’s mid-period novels – if not Vanity Fair, then Pendennis – is a passage which touches on the ‘man is an island’ theme of which so much early-Victorian literature consists. Here Thackeray addresses his specimen reader, envisaged as a well-heeled and rather complacent paterfamilias, snug before his fireside, and invites him to consider the mother and daughter sitting alongside him at the hearth. What are they thinking about? Their lord and master? Domestic cares and tribulations? No, Thackeray insists, madam is probably remembering an early admirer, cast off before her marriage; miss is recalling her last appearance in the ballroom. This idea of the secret life, the dense private palisade that surrounds the average human existence, impenetrable even by those closest to you, lies at the heart of Jane Gardam’s immensely accomplished new novel.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,