The Red Hat

John Bayley
ISBN 9781566491945 (paperback)
Published in November 2001
MSRP $14.00
Set in Holland and in Provence, the first part of this surprising literary work follows a trio of Vermeer lovers who head to The Hague to see a Vermeer exhibition. What begins as a simple journey is muddled quickly when the group becomes unwittingly enmeshed in a web of international terrorists. The narrator of the second part of the novel, Roland, who has read the first narrative, refuses to believe the account and sets off incognito to find the first narrator. As the two halves collide, Bayley continuously twists and confounds the reader, and the story turns voraciously on itself in a parade of exquisite tensions and releases.

In the hands of Bayley, nothing is as it seems. Masquerading as a noir mystery, the text transforms into a comedy of errors: a woman who is kidnapped turns out to be the wrong victim; the elevator man in a charming inn becomes an insatiable lover who may be a Mossad agent... The Red Hat is a delightful and mischievous read.

JOHN BAYLEY, of the great men of letters of our time, has been a mentor to the likes of Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and A.S. Byatt. A former chairman of the Booker Prize Committee, he is a renowned literary critic who has introduced the Everyman's Library editions of works by such authors as Tolstoy, Henry James, Kipling and Pasternak. He was married for nearly 45 years to writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch; he chronicled in the haunting Elegy for Iris his life with his celebrated wife, whose decline from Alzheimer's Disease led to her death shortly after publications of Bayley's memoir. He lives in Oxford.