Old Filth by Jane Gardam


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.

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1 Comment

  1. madeleinebbc

     /  November 8, 2009

    Everyone at the meeting liked ‘Old Filth’, was that a Belper Book Chat first? I experienced it as my first audio book. I think that being restricted to listening to it in the car on just 3 days a week, while travelling to work, added to the enjoyment, and I felt a little sad that I had to return to the witterings of Radio DJs again when the 8th CD finally came to it’s poignant end.

    Despite members being in agreement, there was still lots to discuss. As Richard suggested, perhaps this was because there was such a lot left unsaid by the author. What exactly had happened between Betty and Old Filth’s rival? Why were there no children of the marriage? Was that really what Betty wanted?

    I liked the time shifts, and the slow eeking out of events that shaped the life of Eddie Feathers, and the perfect ending lines. I found parts were laugh-out-loud funny, such as when he first encounters the ‘boy dressed as a priest’ and when he was surrounded by honking, idiot drivers as he made safe and steady progress up the middle lane of the motorway.

    I was delighted to hear from the group that there is still more to read on the lives of these characters, as Jane Gardam has published two companion novels, written as if from the view points of two of the others. Could someone remind us of the titles of these books?

    It was a real lucky dip this month, as the book we had requested wasn’t available and it was chosen practically at random from the sets on the shelves at library HQ. It was much in demand by other Book Chat Groups, do they know something we don’t?


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