Literary Fiction (View all)
FILTH, in his heyday, was an international lawyer with a practice in the Far East. Now, only the oldest QCs and Silks can remember that his nickname stood for Failed In London Try Hong Kong.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. Jane Gardam's new novel tells his story, from his birth in what was then Malaya to the extremities of his old age.Brilliantly constructed - going backwards and forwards in time, yet constantly working towards the secret at its core - OLD FILTH is funny and heart-breaking, witty and peopled with characters who astonish, dismay and delight the reader. Jane Gardam is as sensitive to the 'jungle' within children as she is to the eccentricities of the old. A touch of magic combines with compassion, humour and delicacy to make OLD FILTH a genuine masterpiece.
With the sequel, Man in The Wooden Hat, coming out in November, I finally made the time to read this wonderful novel. Many customers have enthused to me about it over the years (it was first published in 2004), but it was not until my trusty rep read it herself and told me how much she had loved it, that I decided that it just shouldn’t wait any longer. It is one of those rare books which exerts its magic right from the opening sentence. The novel follows the career of Sir Edward Feathers, aka old Filth (Failed in London, Try Hong Kong), a figure of fame and some mystery, once a great advocate and judge, who is now retired and living in Dorset. He and his wife Betty are Raj orphans, two of the many who were born in what was then Malaya, and sent back “home” to be fostered and educated in England: deprived of their parents, such people were left with a permanent sense of never really belonging anywhere. Betty has recently died, and Sir Edward, lost without her, indulges in reminiscences which are not only fascinating in themselves, but which manage to encapsulate the atmosphere of the glory days of the British Empire, a time and way of life once familiar, but now forever lost. This is a pitch perfect novel to be savoured for its flawless style, its wit, poignancy and elegance. How it is possible that such a marvellous book was merely shortlisted for the Orange Prize in the year of its publication is enough to make mockery of all such panels of judges. I can hardly wait to read The Man in The Wooden Hat, which follows the story of Feather’s wife Betty, of whose life the reader gets such tantalizing glimpses here.
Like Annette and Ann, I just adored this book. Many, many years ago, I read God On The Rocks by this author, and remember having the same feeling of complete satisfaction when I finished the last page. Here, Gardam effortlessly flows between past and present, as the recently widowed Sir Edward Feathers QC (Old Filth) lets his mind wander over the past eighty years. He was a Raj orphan, sent from Malaya back to England as a very young boy, his mother having died when he was a few days old and his father ill-equipped for his role, but honour bound to do the ‘right’ thing and send Edward home to England, where he will be fostered and educated. By turn poignant and moving, witty and irreverently funny, this is a must read from Gardam; total enjoyment as you lose yourself in Eddie’s world, a world now long gone.
Having just finished a less than enthralling book it was absolute nirvana to read this fabulous book by Jane Gardam. FILTH, an acronym for Failed in London Try Hong Kong, is the nick name Sir Edward Feathers chose to adopt after leaving to set up practice in the East. In fact there was no failure in London; it was his typically English way of self deprecation… “It wasn’t right to blow one’s own trumpet”. We meet Eddie in the twilight of his life, following the recent death of his wife Betty. We hear of both ends of his life as his mind returns to his youth, gradually exposing the loneliness and hardship he endured, and the subsequent effect this had on shaping his life. Gardam is able to switch back and forth in time, maintaining such clarity that you never get lost. Recently our book club gave this a unanimous perfect 10, a feat no other title has emulated; the highest praise. I am looking forward to reading her most recent outing, Man in the Wooden Hat, which is Betty’s (Eddie’s wife’s) version of events, which will be a must read.