Group Read: Last Friends by Jane Gardam
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Welcome to the Last Friends group read thread.
Jane Gardam is prolific writer:
Jane Mary Gardam OBE FRSL (born 11 July 1928) is an English writer of children's and adult fiction. She also writes reviews for The Spectator and The Telegraph, and writes for BBC radio. She lives in Kent, Wimbledon, and Yorkshire. She has won numerous literary awards, including the Whitbread Award twice. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours.
Abacus edition (left) and Europa edition (right), there may be others.
Part of Amazon’s description:
Last Friends is the third and concluding novel in the highly praised trilogy that began with Old Filth and continued with The Man in the Wooden Hat.
The haunting first novel was the story of a decades-long marriage that stretched from the immediate post-World War II period into the opening of the twenty-first century. Sir Edward Feathers (Old Filth) was a captivating character: so clever, so triumphantly his own man, so wounded by his dreadful childhood.
The Man in the Wooden Hat was Betty's story. She and Sir Edward met and married in Hong Kong. She was sturdy and dependable, the exemplary wife of an eminent lawyer. She owned two exceptional strands of pearls given to her by two men, who desired her and despised each other with equal authority. This second, equally witty, novel weighed the difference between marriage and romance with great subtlety and understanding.
Last Friends is Terence Veneering's turn.
I felt that the rest of Amazon’s description was rather spoiler-ish – I only skimmed it and stopped as soon as there appeared to be important details.
Please be mindful of spoilers. If you zoom through it and just can’t wait to write about it, or if you want to discuss something that is considered “spoiler-ish”, like "The Butler did it" or "I can't believe that Nicholas Nickleby tweeted that horrible message!", use the following syntax:
Thanks, Karen. I'm in. This one is from the butler's perspective? Can't wait! :-)
I just ordered the book from the library--should be here by the middle of next week.
My library hold on The Man in the Wooden Hat just became available. Will see what I can do about catching up but oh, the pressure!
>7 quondame: Hi Susan. The series is not for everyone, for sure.
>8 ronincats: Yay, Roni!
>9 Familyhistorian: I found myself zooming through the first two, Meg, because I was charmed by the language and implications of things to come. I'm sure you'll catch up.
I have read the first chapter and have mentioned on two other threads that her writing is so smooth and seemingly effortless. I am going to try to savor this book.
I'm only on part two The Man in the Wooden Hat. Was happy to find it in the library. But it's the Dutch translation, and it definitely lacks that smooth and effortless quality! I now see that part of the attraction is her wonderful way with language. I do want to read on, but the two English copies in the library have both been lent.
Anyway, I won't be joining the group read now, but will definitely read your discussion later, so have fun everybody.
Thanks, Ella! It's interesting that the translation is not 'smooth and effortless'. Do you ever read a book in English and then Dutch or the other way around?
I'm no speed reader, but I am almost half-through. Makes me look forward to getting old. NOT.
Wow, Bill! I'm going to read the second chapter now, having just finished part 2 of a year-long read of A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. I'm juggling way too many fiction books right now, and keeping them all up in the air is an interesting exercise for me, as I usually only keep one book of fiction going at once.
But in the meantime, here's the second paragraph of the first chapter. We knew all of this, of course, about Edward Feathers and Terence Veneering, but it’s so beautifully written, so succinct, so vivid.
How they had hated! For over half a century they had been fetching up all over the world eye-ball to eye-ball. Hector and Achilles, usually on battlefields far from home, championing or rubbishing, depending on the client, great broken bridges, mouldering reservoirs, wild crumbling new roads across mountain ranges, sewage-works, wind farms, ocean barrages and the leaking swimming pools of moguls. That they had in old age finished up by buying houses next door to each other in a village where there was absolutely nothing to do must have been the result of something the lolling gods had set up one drab day on Olympus to give the legal world a laugh.
I'm here! I started Last Friends this morning. What a terrific writer and storyteller.
Well, okay, done reading. But still unpacking. Two thumbs up for the whole set.
I love this brief paragraph on page 132 of my edition:
It seems to capture an essence of the trilogy.
I finished the book this morning and gave it four stars. I do wish the threads of the stories had been a wee bit easier to follow but I love her writing which is full of poignancy, wry humor, and humanity. I think I might enjoy reading the trilogy as a whole rather than three distinct parts separated by years.
I just finished the book and am sure I missed some of the subtle interplay among the characters, but it is just beautifully written. I'll be writing a review, probably tomorrow, and will post it on my thread and the link here.
I can't believe how long I've waited to finish the story these so-human people lived for my pleasure! In fact, like Ellen, I'm going to re-read all three in a row a little later this year.
So happy I have the books to do so at my leisure! *smooch* for my pal, the horrible Horrible.
karenmarie's review of Last Friends
Spoilers hidden from view unless you want to look at them. *smile*
I'm underway with Last Friends, and once again impressed by her smooth writing style.
That was quite a book! Thanks for inspiring us to read it, Karen. How masterfully she conveyed the different perspectives in the three books. Among other things, I enjoyed finding out more about Veneering, and why he was the way he was. As I mentioned over on my thread,
I'm really looking forward to a power read of all three later in the spring. I loved, oddly enough, Veneering after reading this book. He's not a sympathetic character but I really felt for him.
Wait, RD. Did you just read Last Friends? I thought you were going to wait 'til the power read of all three.
Gardam's love for her characters shone through, I thought, warts and all.
I couldn't resist. I hadda. And I'll get a lot out of the power read no matter that I've now read all three before.
Re: spoiler, I agree...but the love Gardam shows for her characters is tough, unsympathetic love.
One reveal that struck me was that Filth seemed to have known all that Betty and Veneering and Isobel were doing, said nothing to them, and let it all go.
Finally got my copy midweek and am now through Chapter 14. Gardam's writing really does flow beautifully. The penny didn't drop until Chapter 13, but I plead that it's been several years since I read the first two books as the reason
>33 weird_O: Hi Bill! Filth's early years informed all of his relationships and he did keep pretty much everything close to the vest.
>34 ronincats: Hi Roni! So glad you've joined us. There are so many pennies that drop as the series progresses that I really want to re-read it next year, just one after the other.
I finished Last Friends and, while it was interesting to learn about Veneering's back story, I had always felt he was the most interesting character of the trio. It seemed like we didn't get into his head as much as we did with the other main characters in their own books but maybe that was the result of being distracted by the surviving characters' actions.
All done. I do regret that I did not read this shortly after reading the first two as, although I remember most of the main plot lines, such as they are, I do NOT remember
>37 ronincats: Isobel was also in at the beginning with the Raj orphans. At least that's how I remember it.
Finished! What a lovely book. I agree with so many of the comments, especially Ellen's in >19 EBT1002: and >20 EBT1002:.
I love her writing and wish I had read the three closer together so I perhaps would have been more aware of hints and Easter Eggs.
If I had to make up a backstory about Veneering, I'm afraid it would have been totally boring; it wouldn't have resembled the clever twists and turns in Last Friends.
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