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Old Filth by Jane Gardam

Old Filth (original 2004; edition 2006)

by Jane Gardam

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1,8051175,920 (4.03)1 / 672
Title:Old Filth
Authors:Jane Gardam
Info:Europa Editions (2006), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 289 pages
Collections:Your library

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Old Filth by Jane Gardam (2004)

  1. 10
    The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (teelgee)
    teelgee: Parallels in the exploration of a man's life, regrets, memories.
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English (109)  Dutch (3)  German (2)  French (1)  Danish (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (117)
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
Loved this book! Didn't want to put it down! OLD FILTH has been around for a dozen years, but I had never heard of it. The title is an eye-catcher though, and I found it in a local thrift store in like-new condition for half a buck. This lovely novel covers the long life of Sir Edward Feathers, a "child of the Raj," from his birth in remote Malaya to his death eighty-odd years later in Hong Kong. His mother died two days after his birth, his father was a broken veteran of the Great War. Raised first four years by a Malayan wet nurse, then sent "Home" for further education in boys'schools, Eddie never knew his father, and, despite abuse and neglect and shuttling between homes of friends and weird aunts, he survived WWII, with a tour in Badminton, protecting the Queen Mum, and then excelled at Oxford, becoming a successful barrister, then a judge in Hong Kong, and retiring back to England with his beloved wife. But it's all the repressed, in-between stories that make this book so compelling, so darn GOOD! Oh, and yeah, his adult nickname is Old Filth, a play on the axiom, "Failed in London? Try Hong Kong." I'm not gonna say any more. Some great characters here, and the story, which twists back and forth between past and present, slowly revealing some dark secrets of Old Filth's childhood, is simply superb. Oh, and it's filled with a marvelous, sly sense of humor too. Jane Gardam is a wonderful writer. My highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | May 24, 2019 |
What is left to say. Beautifully written. It is about 20th century a British Raj-orphan who from birth to death in this book does little but let things happen to him and recovers from them. There are glimmers of interesting things lurking in the background, but on the surface this is another by&for Brits story of dull Brits, the which I gave up after Atonement, to the extent of not being able to watch Downton Abbey, no, not even for the costumes. ( )
  quondame | Jan 23, 2019 |
It took me a little while to get properly involved with this novel, in which an elderly, retired colonial judge looks back on a life that is quite different from the smooth ride everyone else assumes he must have had.

Gardam is not an aggressively witty or sophisticated writer, and she doesn't do much to haul the reader in at the outset. Her favoured technique seems to be to sneak in towards something that will give us a deeper insight into her characters, but then turn back just before she gets there, leaving us dangling until the next opportunity. An approach that can be very effective, but makes this read almost more like a novel of the 1950s than one written just over a decade ago. This slightly archaic feeling is reinforced by the subject-matter, of course: there are strong echoes of Elizabeth Taylor's Mrs Palfrey in Gardam's tough-but-emotionally-scarred survivors of upper-class colonial childhoods, and of course (as she acknowledges) the voice of the most famously damaged Raj child, Kipling, is never far away. But Gardam brings in plenty of material that goes beyond the obvious - having been married to a QC for many years she is able to write about ageing barristers without making it sound like a pastiche of Rumpole (not that John Mortimer would ever take on a judge as a sympathetic main character!), and the cameo appearance of Queen Mary is a rather splendid touch. I wouldn't quite put in on my list of 100 greatest books, but it does go a step or two beyond being merely entertaining and well-researched. ( )
1 vote thorold | Oct 18, 2018 |
I loved this book -- beautifully written, with well-realized characters. Very, very British. ( )
1 vote GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
There are some exceptionally touching scenes and hilarious dialogues, the story is quite entertaining and the feeling of absence and alienation is beautifully captured, which makes it a rewarding read.

However, other scenes are quite ridiculous and rushed, the stream of conciousness type of writing smells of moth balls and everything is so neatly packed that one cannot get rid of the feeling the cart was put before the horse. ( )
  alik-fuchs | Apr 27, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 109 (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"
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Lawyers, I suppose, were children once
(Inscription upon the statue of a child in the Inner Temple Garden in London)
To Raj Orphans
and their parents
First words
The Benchers' luncheon-room of the Inner Temple.
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 Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 070117756X, Hardcover)

FILTH is a lawyer with a practice in the Far East. A few remember that his nickname stands for Failed In London Try Hong Kong. But Old Filth is not as pompous as people imagine, and his past contains many secrets and dark hiding places.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:21 -0400)

Long ago, Old Filth was a Raj orphan - one of the many young children sent 'home' from the East to be fostered and educated in England. This novel tells his story, from his birth in what was then Malaya to the extremities of his old age.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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