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Old Filth

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 review with 5 star rating   See All Ratings
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  • Posted February 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Old Filth

    One of the best uses of flashback that I can remember. Immensely wise, this bittersweet story is an old man's life. Gradually Gardam reveals the successes and failures of Eddie Feathers, his astonishing luck and balance amid life's rough seas. We come to respect his judgement, appreciate his wit, thank him for his humanity, and love him for forgiving the infidelities of his wife, and for his embrace of his arch nemesis. We miss him at the end. One of the great characters of British literature today.

    We first see eighty-year-old Feathers in retirement in Dorset, England after a long career at the bar in Hong Kong. Careful reasoning on illustrious cases over his career earns him a reputation at home and abroad and he is known to all by the sobriquet "Old Filth" (Failed in London, Try Hong Kong), a term usually reserved for a group of people. His mind drifts back over chapters in his life that formed and directed him, and we see him reason, and change. A remarkable performance which should earn Jane Gardam well-deserved respect and a large audience.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 6, 2010

    brookner, greene, fitzgerald

    if you enjoy british novels...and i wouldn't use the word contemporary to describe them, you might enjoy this one. I happen to love british writing, so i am biased here. anita brookner is my favorite author. this is in the same vein. excellent writing.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    They don¿t even see him, in a corner of the room, when today¿s i

    They don’t even see him, in a corner of the room, when today’s important lawyers remember Old Filth. They remember him with a touch of fond reverence—Failed In London but surely made it when he Tried Hongkong. They know he’s back in England, and his wife died, and there was that thing... maybe.

    But there are many “things” hiding in Jane Gardam’s novel, Old Filth: The history of England’s children, born in the Empire’s farflung corners and sent “home” because, somehow, foreign illnesses might be more dangerous than growing up without a family; the history of war, its confusion and agony and loss; and the history of law in the promise of foreign shores. Relationships slowly reveal themselves in new lights as different characters take the stage. And behind it all, almost unseen, Old Filth is almost accidentally gathering his fractured selves into one—invisible, lost, forgotten, then remembered again.

    The writing is pleasingly spare, inviting readers to connect the dots, and rewarding them with brilliantly evocative scenes, low-key pathos and humor, and powerful depths of character and relationships. Events shift effortlessly from past to present, from Malaysia to boarding school and university; and every mystery hides its own kind of answer, near or far, waiting for its perfect revelation. The novel is powerfully moving. The protagonist demands an almost reluctant sympathy. And the decline and fall of Empire are beautifully chronicled in the life of a lonely, oddly appealing, irascible old man.

    Disclosure: Our book group picked this book and I’m so glad they did.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2012

    Highly readable on many levels

    This is a book that can be savored or read quickly. It works on many levels and threads neatly back and forth, as one's mind does after a long life, between the decades of a life. It deals with death and impending death, love, lust and repression, cruelty, secrets and opening up, filth and coming clean, loss and loyalty, the old and the young, the mysteries behind masks, the hurts and longings. It's grist for book clubs and sharing or for just a good read.

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  • Posted November 19, 2011

    Highly recommended!

    I have several friends who are Raj orphans so I found the book fascinating. I am looking forward to reading the follow-up book "The Man in the Wooden Hat"

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