The People on Privilege Hill

The People on Privilege Hill

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by Jane Gardam

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A new collection of stories from a writer at the height of her powers—a celebrated stylist admired for her caustic humor, freewheeling imagination, love of humanity and wicked powers of observation. This is a delightful grouping of stories, witty and wise, that includes the return of Sir Edward Feathers, “Old Filth” himself.  See more details below


A new collection of stories from a writer at the height of her powers—a celebrated stylist admired for her caustic humor, freewheeling imagination, love of humanity and wicked powers of observation. This is a delightful grouping of stories, witty and wise, that includes the return of Sir Edward Feathers, “Old Filth” himself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Wry, economical and perpetually surprising, these 14 stories from English novelist Gardam (Old Filth) follow the last of the intrepid, stiff upper lip WWII generation of British ladies and gentlemen. In the title story, octogenarian widower Edward Feathers, "cold and old and going out to lunch with a woman called Dulcie he never much liked" arrives at Dulcie's Dorset house, where shared sensibilities go a long way in carrying them through some awkward moments. In "The Latter Days of Mr. Jones," the aged titular protagonist, "the last of his tribe," collides with contemporary mores when his daily solitary walks on the Common, frequented by children, arouse suspicions. Set in 1941, "The Flight Path" proves a creepy, hilarious sendup of familial relations when young medical student Jim Smith travels to London for a terrible, memorable night during the blitz. And "The Last Reunion" finds a group of four toughened elderly dames, once college chums, returning unsentimentally to their school on the occasion of its closing. Gardam vividly evokes an age of iron wills. (July)

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Library Journal

In these 14 stories set in England, Gardam (The Flight of the Maidens) writes efficiently and amusingly about old age, insensitive youth, strange events, and ordinary life. Some stories, such as "Pangbourne," about a woman who bonds with a gorilla at the zoo, and "Babette," about an aging writer who gives away a cast-iron bathtub, are wonderfully bizarre. Others, like "The Hair of the Dog" and "The Fledgling," deal with the inevitable misunderstanding between parents and their children. Two of the best stories are the title story and "The Latter Days of Mr. Jones." In the former, we find Edward Feathers from Gardam's novel Old Filth on his way to a luncheon that ultimately ends in social disaster for the hostess but satisfying amusement for the reader. In the latter, the title character is a gentle elderly man who is quietly living out his days in a neighborhood that has become increasingly contemporary and thus suspicious of old men who enjoy sitting in the park watching children play. Gardam has created characters that are charming and touching and has edged them with her barbed humor. Recommended for all fiction collections.
—Joy Humphrey

Kirkus Reviews
The British Gardam (The Queen of the Tambourine, 2007, etc.) excels once again in this collection of 14 wide-ranging stories. The author corrals a variety of surprising characters, especially the old and the late middle-aged. The ancient dodderers of the title story include Old Filth himself (from Gardam's 2004 novel of the same name), a guest at a party for a prospective Jesuit monk. Dulcie, the gin-swilling hostess, had fallen for the monk at a cathedral; though her guest mysteriously vanishes, there's still the promise of rejuvenation for these old codgers, or even love. That's what the female narrator of "Pangbourne" finds, at her local zoo, as she dotes on a gorilla: "I knew him for a gentle beast." She's a sympathetic old dear, unlike the grizzled pessimists in "The Flight Path," a cautionary tale about givers and getters set in London in 1941 during the Blitz. Wartime London is grippingly evoked, and Gardam settles the fate of this grim crew with a charming ruthlessness; some complacent nobodies in "Babette" (in which a forgotten novelist leads her discerning reviewer to hidden treasures) are also summarily dispatched. The author demonstrates her range in "Waiting for a Stranger," a shivery Halloween story alive with tricks and treats and racial ill-will; "The Virgins of Bruges," in which a Parisian nun, looking for sanctuary in an unfamiliar city, stumbles onto a nightmarish scene, a church converted into a druggy nightclub; and "Snap," the story of a heroically faithful wife whose one night of adultery ends with a broken ankle. Gardam's technical proficiency doesn't always hold up. A mother, a daughter, the daughter's best friend and a hairdresser compete for attention in theovercrowded "The Hair of the Dog"; and point-of-view switches make "The Fledgling" (18-year-old leaves home for college) rather awkward. But she navigates the passage of time skillfully in "The Last Reunion." Here four women come together for a college reunion after 40 years, and lyrical memories collide painfully with present reality. Gardam's brisk narration and fearless temperament make for serious fun.

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Product Details

Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Jane Gardam has twice won the Whitbread Award, for The Hollow Land, and Queen of the Tambourine. She is also the author of God on the Rocks, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and most recently, Faith Fox.

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People on Privilege Hill 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
Stories, short and quick and with adult emotions, is what we find in this marvelous collection published 2008 by Europa. Gardam has a laser-eye and can have a razor-tongue, but she knows what humans are and what makes a story. In "The Fledgling," we are introduced to that self-conscious teen ready to leave the nest, and the mixed emotions of parent and child are recognizable and painful and funny at the same time. In "Dangers" we encounter a story reminiscent of the UK's BBC radio show My Word, where segments often feature a funny and circuitous word etomology. "Waiting for a Stranger" may be my favorite of all, as an uncertain hostess waits for an overseas guest to arrive at her remote farm cottage. There had been only a day to prepare--it was a sudden request from her minister and her guest is a black African bishop. She is a farm wife and mother, and she'd never seen a black man in the flesh before, just on the telly. There is something terribly poignant about the care for a stranger. In "The Virgin of Bruges," Gardam displays her trademark dry wit: "But even if she had not wanted me I would have gone to her. Frédérique is unlike me. She is a mother, wife of a farmer, beautiful, resourceful, practical, intellectual. I am a small, short man." "Pangbourne" is a story of cherishing another being, sharing their space, and their lives, with no expectation of any return. And Gardam breaks our hearts with "The Latter Days of Mr. Jones," the story of an elderly man, alone and never married, accused of hateful crimes against children. Each story illuminates corners of the human psyche and doesn't bore us with too much of anything-explanations or asides, regrets or remarks. Just short stories that remain long in one's memory.