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Old Filth (2004)

by Jane Gardam

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Old Filth (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,2971396,635 (4.04)1 / 727
First in the Old Filth trilogy. A New York Times Notable Book. Sir Edward Feathers has had a brilliant career, from his early days as a lawyer in Southeast Asia, where he earned the nickname Old Filth (FILTH being an acronym for Failed In London Try Hong Kong) to his final working days as a respected judge at the English bar. Yet through it all he has carried with him the wounds of a difficult and emotionally hollow childhood. Now an eighty-year-old widower living in comfortable seclusion in Dorset, Feathers is finally free from the regimen of work and the sentimental scaffolding that has sustained him throughout his life. He slips back into the past with ever mounting frequency and intensity, and on the tide of these vivid, lyrical musings, Feathers approaches a reckoning with his own history. Not all the old filth, it seems, can be cleaned away. Borrowing from biography and history, Jane Gardam has written a literary masterpiece reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling's "Baa Baa, Black Sheep" that retraces much of the twentieth century's torrid and momentous history.… (more)
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» See also 727 mentions

English (129)  Dutch (4)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  Piratical (1)  French (1)  All languages (139)
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
Very good characters. Will look out for more books by this author! ( )
  jemisonreads | Jan 22, 2024 |
Old Filth (Failed in London tried Hong Kong) a Raj orphan who was left behind or abused by parental figures at a critical age. Although is successful professionally, he ruminates about his life during bouts of sadness or frustration. Great characters and his story is both sad and, at times, quite funny. Loved it .... writing and story are wonderful. ( )
  almin | Jan 5, 2024 |
I shall need to come back in 20 years and see if I don't give it 5 stars, it certainly was close. At times difficult, at times recognizable, and at times completely unfamiliar. ( )
  emmby | Oct 4, 2023 |
Historical fiction gives us a window into understanding how the world came to be the way it is. Gardam encapsulates the collapse of the British Empire in this story of Edward, born in Malay to a bureaucrat still suffering from WWI injuries. Raised for four years by servants since his mother died of childbed fever, he is then sent off to an abusive foster home in Wales along with two cousins.
The tale is told by Edward, now in his '80's, as he tries to find meaning in his life after his wife's death. We are only given glimpses of his childhood; he slams the window shut on the painful memories as often as they poke through. Yet his strong sense of moral rightness and duty keeps him prying at his memories. It seems his youth was spent blindered, so focused on excelling in his studies that he is unaware of most facts of life. The absence of loving parents has kept him from really loving anyone. His sole memory of freedom is mixed with the shame of being evacuated from England at age 17 rather than being allowed to fight for his country. We hear other people commenting "you would do well as a lawyer", but we never hear him express any desire for any career. He is intelligent and courteous, therefore he is respected by all who know him.
This tale includes many thoughtful phrases which are a pleasure to read. Edward, "Old Filth", remained in my mind in between my reading opportunities. Louise Erdrich referenced study by a pair of social psychologists and the New School who found that reading complex literature increased a person's empathy. This book will work on you; it's a pity Old Filth never read literature.[https://www.newschool.edu/pressroom/pressreleases/2013/CastanoKidd.htm] ( )
  juniperSun | Sep 27, 2023 |
Lovely writing, but somehow the story and characters were not that compelling. Some bit of energy is missing from this book. I don't think I'll read the rest in the series. ( )
  lschiff | Sep 24, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
Wat een ongelofelijk gaaf boek heeft de Britse Jane Gardam (geboren 1928) geschreven met De onberispelijke man – wat knap om zoveel personages, tijdvakken, werelddelen, historische feiten en nog zo veel meer (schijnbaar) moeiteloos te verweven tot een zeer pakkend en aangrijpend verhaal! Het verhaal is spannend, ontroerend, verrassend, meeslepend en zo kan ik nog wel even doorgaan…lees verder >
 
Are you interested in venerable lawyers, the relic of empire? You will be. Do you want to know about the Far Eastern Bar? A reader of Old Filth, despite its unpromising title, will become passionately curious about such matters. This novel is surely Gardam's masterpiece. On the human level, it is one of the most moving fictions I have read for years. I shall always remember the scene in which, putting up at the garish hotel that has replaced The Old Judges' Lodging, this most ramrod-backed and disciplined of elderly men sees his wife's obituary whilst doing his stately breakfasting. He "wept silently behind his hands, sitting in this unknown place"
 

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jane Gardamprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bogdan, IsabelÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bracci Testasecca, AlbertoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hodgkinson, CasparTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perdigó, Victoria MaletTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poort, JoostTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Lawyers, I suppose, were children once
(Inscription upon the statue of a child in the Inner Temple Garden in London)
Dedication
To Raj Orphans
and their parents
First words
The Benchers' luncheon-room of the Inner Temple.
Quotations
Yes. You'll be a lawyer. Magnificent memory. Sense of logic, no imagination and no brains.
Without memory and desire life is pointless?
All my life… from my early childhood, I have been left, or dumped, or separated by death, from everyone I loved or who cared for me. I want to know why.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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First in the Old Filth trilogy. A New York Times Notable Book. Sir Edward Feathers has had a brilliant career, from his early days as a lawyer in Southeast Asia, where he earned the nickname Old Filth (FILTH being an acronym for Failed In London Try Hong Kong) to his final working days as a respected judge at the English bar. Yet through it all he has carried with him the wounds of a difficult and emotionally hollow childhood. Now an eighty-year-old widower living in comfortable seclusion in Dorset, Feathers is finally free from the regimen of work and the sentimental scaffolding that has sustained him throughout his life. He slips back into the past with ever mounting frequency and intensity, and on the tide of these vivid, lyrical musings, Feathers approaches a reckoning with his own history. Not all the old filth, it seems, can be cleaned away. Borrowing from biography and history, Jane Gardam has written a literary masterpiece reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling's "Baa Baa, Black Sheep" that retraces much of the twentieth century's torrid and momentous history.

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Average: (4.04)
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