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Last Friends

Last Friends

4.3 6
by Jane Gardam

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Third book in the Old Filth trilogy (Old Filth, The Man in the Wooden Hat, Last Friends). The marriage of Edward Feathers and Betty as seen through the eyes of Edwards friend and Betty's lover Terry Veneering.


Third book in the Old Filth trilogy (Old Filth, The Man in the Wooden Hat, Last Friends). The marriage of Edward Feathers and Betty as seen through the eyes of Edwards friend and Betty's lover Terry Veneering.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Hugo Lindgren
On a list of my top reading interests, the lives of kooky geezers in a fading English village don't rank high. But all it takes is a page or two of Jane Gardam to force a reconsideration. Her prose is so perceptive and fluid that it feels mentally healthful, exiling the noise and clutter of your mind as efficiently as a Schubert sonata. She could make actuarial tables pleasurable…[Gardam's] effortless command of character and narrative sweeps you right along.
Publishers Weekly
Completing the trilogy begun by Old Filth and The Man in the Wooden Hat, Gardam's impeccable finale revisits the triad of Edward "Old Filth" Feathers; his wife, Betty; and his rival (and Betty's lover), Terry Veneering. Although this third installation is ostensibly about Veneering, it is just as much about the minor characters these three have left in their wake. The novel begins at Old Filth's memorial service as Dulcie, widow of Judge William Willy, and Fred Fiscal-Smith, the perpetual hanger-on, share hazy reminiscences of their departed friends. As the two witness the last traces of the British Empire fade away, Gardam juxtaposes scenes from Veneering's impoverished childhood, describing the pains he took in order to escape class restrictions and become a respected lawyer. Though familiarity with the prior two installments of the trilogy is not necessary, readers entering the story at this late entry will miss much of the richness and depth of Gardam's narrative. They see themselves moving out of sync with the world around them, as one of the numerous geriatrics who populate this novel muses "Perhaps fiction was a mistake, it has rather fizzled out." But here Gardam proves that, even in its twilight, there is still life in the traditional English novel. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Gardam is the best British writer you've never heard of"
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR

"Jane Gardam is a wonderful writer. Her understanding of character and use of language are both remarkable"
—The Times

"Old Filth belongs in the Dickensian pantheon of memorable characters."
—New York Times Sunday Book Review

Library Journal
The missing pieces in the life stories of Edward Feathers (also called Old Filth, for "Failed in London, Try Hong Kong") and his archenemy, Terence Veneering, are provided by their contemporaries Dulcie Williams and Fred Fiscal-Smith, who find themselves attending the funeral of Sir Edward as the last survivors of a community of British expats from the postwar years in Hong Kong. Where Feathers started life blessed with good looks and good connections, Veneering (born Varenski) came by his luck more haphazardly—through self-invention, a protective mother, and benevolent patrons. Despite their divergent beginnings, the two have followed strikingly similar paths, both practicing commercial law in the Far East and both loving the same woman—Betty, Old Filth's wife. By equally strange coincidence, Feathers and Veneering ended their days back in England, living next door to each other. Seen through the eyes of their former friends and colleagues, their history is patched together and fleshed out. VERDICT What this final chapter in the Old Filth trilogy (Old Filth; The Man in the Wooden Hat) lacks in originality, it makes up for in the pleasures of reacquaintance; for all who loved Gardam's dear old eccentrics.—Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.
Kirkus Reviews
Award-winning British author Gardam completes her superb Old Filth trilogy--Old Filth (2004) and The Man in the Wooden Hat (2009)--with Sir Terence Veneering's story. This third--and final--book about a love triangle involving two bitter rivals is exquisitely expressive. When Sir Terence and Sir Edward die within months of each other, only a few people at their memorial services can personally recall the details of the venerable yet tumultuous lives they led. But old Dulcie, widow of judge William Willy, and Sir Frederick Fiscal-Smith, perennial houseguest of the upper class, share fleeting recollections of earlier lives through reminisces that are clouded with the haze of old age. The author's two previous books focused on the stories of Sir Edward "Old Filth" Feathers and his wife, Betty. Gardam completes the trilogy by telling bits and pieces of Sir Terry Veneering's rise from an impoverished childhood to a life of distinction. Terry, born the son of Florrie, a coal vendor, and Russian-born Anton, a former acrobat and dancer whose career is cut short when he suffers an injury, is an intelligent youngster with an affinity for languages and a love of the sea. While roaming the beach one day, he meets a lawyer who helps him further his education. A fortuitous last-minute decision and some devastating news sends Terry to Ampleforth College and subsequently to sharing top honors on the bar exam finals with Sir Edward. Their rivalry, fired when they represent opposing sides in court and fueled by Sir Terry's love of Betty, endures until the twilight of their lives. Those who've read the first two books in the series will no doubt relish the opportunity to gain insight into the life of the third key player in the love story, but they'll also feel deeply moved by Dulcie and Fiscal-Smith, two relics of the old guard who recall a time in England when one's class restrictions were difficult to circumvent and surnames were of ultimate importance--regardless of accomplishments or financial circumstances. Impeccably written.

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

Read an Excerpt


By Jane Gardam, $TRADUTTORE$

Europa Editions

Copyright © 2013 Jane Gardam
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60945-093-9



The Titans were gone. They had clashed their last. Sir Edward Feathers, affectionately known as Old Filth (Failed in London, Try Hong Kong) and Sir Terence Veneering, the two greatest exponents of English and International Law in the engineering and construction industry and the current experts upon the Ethics of Pollution, were dead. Their well-worn armour had fallen from them with barely a clatter and the quiet Dorset village to which they had retired within a very few years of each other (accidentally, for they had hated each other for over fifty years) mourned their passing and wondered who would be distinguished enough to buy their houses.

How they had hated! For over half a century they had been fetching up all over the world eye-ball to eye-ball, Hector and Achilles, usually on battlefields far from home, championing or rubbishing, depending on the client, great broken bridges, mouldering reservoirs, wild crumbling new roads across mountain ranges, sewage-works, wind farms, ocean barrages and the leaking swimming pools of moguls. That they had in old age finished up by buying houses next door to each other in a village where: there was absolutely nothing to do must have been the result of something the lolling gods had set up one drab day on Olympus to give the legal world a laugh.

And the laugh had been uneasy because it had been said for years—well, everyone knew—that Edward Feathers' dead wife, Betty, had been the lover of Sir Terry. Or maybe not exactly the lover. But something. There had been something between them. Well, there had been love.

Elizabeth—Betty—Feathers had died some years before the arrival of Sir Terry next-door.

Her husband, Old Filth, Sir Edward, the great crag of a man seated above her on the patio pretending to shoot rooks with his walking-stick, a gin and tonic at his elbow, had, quite simply, broken his heart.

Birds and beasts were important to Old Filth. Donkeys' years ago his prep-school headmaster had taught him about birds. It was birds and the language of the natural world and the headmaster whose name was briefly 'Sir', who had cured him of his awful child-hood stammer and enabled him to become an advocate.

His house, Dexters, lay in a long narrow dell off the village hill, bird-haunted and surrounded by trees. Beyond his gate, up the same turn-off and out of sight, Veneering's house stood at the top of the view. His taller, darker trees hung over the lane but the rooks ignored them. 'Rooks,' thought Old Filth, 'choose their friends. They will only abandon a friend if they have fore-knowledge of disaster.' Each night before sleep and each morning Filth lay in his bed straight as a sentry, striped Chilprufe pyjamas neatly buttoned, handkerchief in breast pocket carefully folded, and listened to the vigorous clamour of the rooks and was comforted. So long as he could hear their passionate disputations he would never miss his life at the Commercial Bar.

He did rather wish they had been cleaner birds. Their nests were old and huge. Ramshackle and filthy. Filth himself was ostentatiously clean. His finger nails and toe nails were pearly (chiropodist to the house every sixth week: twenty-five pounds a time) his hair still not grey but curly, autumnal bronze. His complexion shone and was scarcely lined. He smelled of Wrights coal-tar soap—rather excitingly—a commodity beginning to be rare in many parts of the country. 'He must have had something to hide,' said young barristers. 'Something nasty in his wood-shed.' 'What, Old Filth!' they cried, 'Impossible!' They were of course wrong. Eddie Feathers Q.C. had as much to hide as everybody else.

But whatever it was it would have nothing to do with money. He never mentioned the stuff. He was a gentleman to the end. There must have been buckets of it somewhere. Bucket upon bucket upon bucket, thanks to the long, long international practice. And he spent nothing, or nothing much. Maybe a bit more than the mysterious Veneering next door. He was not a vain man. He strode about the lanes in expensive tweeds, but they were very old. Not much fun, but never pompous. If he ever brooded upon his well-organised millions, managed by impeccable brokers, he didn't think about them much. He joked about them occasionally. 'Oh yes, I have "held the gorgeous East in fee,'" he would say, 'Ha-ha,' and quoting Sir, his headmaster. He himself never went to the theatre or read poetry, for he wept too easily.

After a time a lethargy had fallen upon Feathers. He lost the energy even to think about moving house. And maybe the old enemy up the slope had begun to feel the same. They never met. If occasionally they found themselves passing one another at a distance during an afternoon walk in the lanes, each looked away.

Then, after a year or so, something must have happened. It was never discussed even in the village shop but there were some astonishing sightings, sounds of old-English accents, staccato in the bluebell woods. It happened over a snow-bound Christmas. Before long it was reported that the two old buffers were playing chess together on Thursdays. And when Terry Veneering died during a ridiculous jaunt—foot in a hole on a cliff-top on the island of Malta and then thrombosis—Edward Feathers said, 'Silly old fool. Far too old for that sort of thing. I told him so,' but was surprised how much he missed him.

Yet he refused to attend Veneering's memorial service at Temple Church in London. There would have been comment and Betty's name bandied about. For all his Olympian manner Old Filth was not histrionic. Never. He stayed alone at home that day making notes on the new edition of Hudson on Building Contracts that he had been (flatteringly considering his age) asked to re-edit some years before. He had a whisky and a slice of ham for his supper and listened to the News. When he heard the returning cars of the village mourners passing the end of his lane from Tisbury station he sensed disapproval at his absence like a wet cloth across his face; and turned a page.

Nobody came to see him that evening, not even sexy old Chloe who was never off his doorstep with shepherd's pies: not his gardener or his cleaning lady who had travelled to the memorial service to London and back together in the gardener's pick-up. Not Dulcie who lived nearby on Privilege Hill and was just about his oldest friend, the widow of an endearing old Hong Kong judge dead years ago and much lamented. Dulcie was a tiny, rather stupid woman, and grande dame of the village. 'Let them think what they like,' said Old Filth into his double malt. 'I am past all these frivolities.'

But the next frivolity was to be his own, for the following Christmas he took himself off alone to the place of his birth, which he still called The Malay States, and died as he stepped off the plane.

Excerpted from LAST FRIENDS by Jane Gardam. Copyright © 2013 by Jane Gardam. Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Gardam is the best British writer you've never heard of"
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR

"Jane Gardam is a wonderful writer. Her understanding of character and use of language are both remarkable"
—The Times

"Old Filth belongs in the Dickensian pantheon of memorable characters."
—New York Times Sunday Book Review

Meet the Author

Jane Gardam is the only author to have twice been awarded Britain’s prestigious Costa (formerly Whitbread) Award for Best Novel. She was also a Booker prize finalist. Her novel The Man in the Wooden Hat was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times book prize and Old Filth was a finalist for the Orange Prize and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She lives in the south of England near the sea.

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Last Friends 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read the two prior books first. This one is wonderful too. A++++ job.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Add me....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Did not enjoy as the first 2 books, but enjoyed having the whole story "wrapped up."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do like Jane Gardam very much and Old Filth gave my book club a lot to discuss. The second volume was as good if not better in filling in the story. Most of Last Friends could have been incorporated into the first two books and it seemed like it was written to round out a three-book series when it wasn't necessary. However, do read this series and her other books - she is a wonderful writer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Both a sequel and a prequel to Old Filth and The Man in the Wooden Hat--if you've read those, you must read this