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  • Mad Hatter

  • Essential Prose, Book 164
  • Written by: Amanda Hale
  • Narrated by: Amanda Hale
  • Length: 14 hrs and 35 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Mad Hatter

Written by: Amanda Hale
Narrated by: Amanda Hale
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Publisher's Summary

When British hat manufacturer Christopher Brooke is arrested under Regulation 18B in June 1940, a slow process of personal disintegration begins, affecting his family irreversibly. 

Taking us into the pre-war political era of Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, Mad Hatter delves into the lives of Britons, tracking them through a darkening time. 

Irish farm girl, Mary Byrne, arrives in England in July 1940 to work as housekeeper for Cynthia Brooke and her three children, bonding with the family. When Mary is shockingly expelled from the house upon Christopher's release from internment in 1943, her narration continues through the mouth of 15-month-old Katie, conceived on a prison leave. 

Mad Hatter follows the Brooke family into the postwar period, charting the slow unraveling of a marriage as the story moves inexorably to a tragic conclusion in which Mary Byrne is once again embraced by the family, but in a most surprising manner.

©2019 Amanda Hale (P)2020 Amanda Hale

What listeners say about Mad Hatter

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Incredible story told with grace and beauty

This was an incredible story, beautifully written and even more beautifully read. A rare stand out gem that needs to be read/heard. This is definitely one of my favourite listens of the year!

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Great Experience

Often it’s mistake for the author to narrate their own work. Not in in this case. Amanda Hale gives a superb reading of this atmospheric novel of WWII England. Her pitch perfect accents accentuate the novel’s nuanced contrast between homefront wartime experience of the upper middle class and that of working class characters.
The novel personalized a now less known undercurrent of British WWII history, the pro-fascist movement that coalesced around Oswald Mosley. Much deeper than a political story, is an intimate view how global events unfold in the lives and thoughts of sharply drawn characters.
Some have compared this novel to Michael Ondaaje’s War Light. It also reminded me of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Mad Hatter deserves a place among them, historical fiction at it’s best and an audio presentation that is truly a pleasure.

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This Audio Book is A "Wow"!

I loved the printed hard copy book of Amanda Hale's novel, "Mad Hatter" but I think the audio book is even better. Hale reads the entire book, herself, playing all the different characters, skilfully switching accents with ease. The plot twists and turns with mystery, tension and, sometimes, subtle humour. The characters are refreshing probably because it's a fictionalised version of her father's tragic life as an English Fascist in World War 2 England.
Adjust your speakers, tweak the volume, relax and delight to a really fun ride of Amanda Hale revved up and killing it doing "Mad Hatter" to sublime perfection. Kind of like "The Yearling" on 6 Espressos.
Philip Cairns,
Toronto

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A Palimpsest of Shadows

Mad Hatter is a great listen – and read – from beginning to end. In her novel, Ms Hale dives into history and imagination in an attempt to connect with her lost past, her family and herself. Her language is often poetic; her understanding of the Second World War’s emotional impact on people’s lives is insightful. In the audio version, Ms Hale plays her characters as if she’s a changeling. One moment she’s Mary Byrne, the Brooke family’s Irish housekeeper, the next she’s English Cynthia Brooke, struggling for happiness in a one-sided marriage. Then she’s Christopher, Cynthia's broken husband, who is either moralizing about England’s involvement in WW II, or trying to grasp why his relationship with his wife is falling apart. On occasion, she’s young Katie, waiting to be born, uninvited to a world that holds too many mysteries. Ms Hale’s narration reminds me of a one-person play I once saw in Vancouver, where the actor played sixteen different characters in the course of two hours. I was so enthralled by the performance that I dragged my entire social life to the theatre the next evening. Each friend was astonished by the actor’s skill, as I’m amazed by Ms Hale’s command of character. Mad Hatter is a significant piece of CanLit. The audiobook is a 14-hour journey into the life and soul of a family snared by circumstance and a liberation created with a writer's courage to dive deep.  

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Please - listen to this incredible story!

This book - impossible to characterize (is it a mystery? historical fiction? a thriller? a romance? a family saga? a war novel?). If you enjoy plot-driven stories, this novel has plot in spades. If you prefer character-driven stories, somehow this novel offers that, too.

This fictionalized memoir/biography, set in Britain during the Second World War, takes on big issues — mental fragility, emotional resilience, demonization of dissenters, tribalism, gender roles, class, morality, the effects of shame, family legacy, sex, love, and loyalty. The author deftly weaves these themes throughout the story; never heavy-handed, never preachy, but rather gently inquiring and encouraging her readers to reflect upon their own beliefs and responses and behaviours.

The author reads her own work with skill. (The only author I have heard read as well as Ms. Hale is Ruth Ozeki with her narration of A Tale for the Time Being). Her strong accent work makes it easy to understand which viewpoint we are hearing (the story is told from two viewpoints, with chapters alternating narrator).

As I said to my book club, this book is an utter delight, although not very much delightful happens in it. Yes, it is filled with pain and struggle; anger and cruelty. And yet a gentle humour peeks through at times, and a very human sensuality. It is both heart-breaking and life-affirming.

A hearty two-thumbs up from this reader!

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