The Fascinating Hat by Isabel Cameron – 20 Books of Summer 2021

 The Fascinating Hat cover

The Fascinating Hat by the Scottish author Isabel Cameron was first published in 1941. The book begins with Jinty Campbell trimming a hat that she’s going to wear in a dramatic entertainment in the village hall the following week. She’s interrupted by the local minister who has a habit of just walking into people’s houses unannounced. With him is his nephew who is a doctor, he has come to stand in for the local doctor who is going on holiday. There’s quite a lot of snappy banter as the two young people seem to hit it off quickly, having a similar sense of humour.

The screeching of tyres in the street and a crash alert them to a taxi which has ended up on its side while swerving to avoid a child on the road. The young passenger has been knocked out, tended by Jinty who had been a VAD, and the new young doctor. But their patient has lost his memory and has no idea who he is.

Jinty is an apprentice at a firm of architects, planning to become an architect herself eventually. As far as she’s concerned it’s about time that houses were designed by women for women as men have no idea of how to design homes with women in mind, making a lot of unnecessary work for them. Cupboards too high up, the sink in a corner facing a wall, sometimes no sink at all, the dishes to be washed in a basin on the kitchen table, no cupboards for storage and unneccesary steps. Secretly her bosses have to admit that she has a point.

The architects had got a commission to build a wonderful large house locally, with no expense spared. Their client was abroad and wanted to come home apparently. As you can imagine Jinty is in her element.

This was an enjoyable read and I imagine that in 1941 it must have been very unusual to have a young woman with the ambition of becoming an architect, so that was quite a surprise to me. However the storyline took a weird turn when the patient’s memory was restored by an operation. I found the thought of that quite shuddersome as so many people in reality were damaged forever when doctor’s performed brain operations when probably what they needed was a good psychologist – or even a nice wee rest!

4 thoughts on “The Fascinating Hat by Isabel Cameron – 20 Books of Summer 2021

  1. Somehow the book cover doesn’t look at all like the way the book sounds. I thought it was going to be a historical romance. The arrival of a taxi took me quite by surprise!

    • FictionFan,
      That cover is a bit confusing as the hat is being used in a historical drama in the village hall. I think for 1941 the young female character is really modern, isn’t going to get married as she wants a career, then the inevitable bloke gets her!

  2. I too was wondering how the cover fit into the story! I liked the sound of it, however. In the Betsy-Tacy books, the third friend, Tib, says she wants to be an architect like her father and he says she will be a wife and it’s her brother who will follow his career. I suppose this is meant to contrast to Betsy’s father who is extremely supportive (around 1910) of his eldest daughter’s desire to study opera and of Betsy’s determination since childhood to write.

    • Constance,
      Some girls were lucky to have supportive parents but not many. In 1970s Scotland, my mother (the boss) said there was no point in putting any effort into your daughters as they just grew up to push prams. I now have a d-i-l who is an architect but many men are still surprised that they have to deal with a woman!

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