Monday, 3 July 2017

Read in 2017 - 24: Old Filth

"Old Filth" by Jane Gardam has received a lot of praise since its publication in 2004, and rightly so. If you have not read it, I can highly recommend it.


Do not be put off by the title (like I was, at least a little). It really makes for a reading experience you want to continue when the book ends. Good job then that there are two more involving the same characters! My sister has read them all and tells me all three tell the story from the perspective of a different character. This sounds like an unusual but interesting concept, and I am definitely going to read the other two.

Old Filth is the nickname of Sir Edwar Feathers, a former judge and QC who rose to international fame practicing law in the Far East. The nickname Filth stands for "Failed in London, Tried Hong Kong" and has nothing to do with any filthy habits of his (there aren't any).

The story of his life runs parallel to the decline of the British Empire from its glory days through WWII to the present day. 
As you know from my blog, the topic of self-perception versus how others pereceive us is one I find utterly fascinating. And in this book, it crops up all the time. People who used to know him in his active days say to each other that he still looks great in his old age because "he's never had really anything happening to him". Little do they know of how his childhood and youth was spent, of the small and big dramas that took place during those decisive years.

I won't tell you much more about the story because I want you to read it for yourselves, if you have the time and inclination. It is very well written and edited (makes a refreshing change from some of the free ebooks I have been reading lately!), and I am looking forward to reading the other two books. 

This was my first read by Jane Gardam. Wikipedia tells me that she will be 90 years old next year, was born in Yorkshire and has three children. She wrote children's books (some of which I'd really like to read), short stories and novels, plus one non-fiction book. Definitely an author very worthy of anyone's time and attention.

14 comments:

  1. My German friend Ruth who lives in England - and who is a wonderful source of great books to read and often gifts me with special ones - brought OLD FILTH to my attention. She sent it to me and I loved it. Since finishing I've also read The Man in the Wooden Hat and Last Friends, I ran out and bought them immediately. All three took up much of my reading time late last year and I loved each one.
    Jane Gardam is an exquisite storyteller and the trilogy was enthralling from beginning to end.
    Hope you read the other two soon - you won't be sorry!
    Mary -

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    1. Thank you, Mary - seems like you, my sister and I have a good part of our reading tastes in common :-)
      I am definitely going to read the other two after my return from the holidays; for travelling, I will only take my kindle with me, no physical books.

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  2. I loved this author's novel Bilgewater, but haven't really got on with any of the others. Sad.

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    1. I'd like to know more about her children's books, Frances. Your opinion as a fellow writer is very valuable to me.

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  3. I really like this book, and the two others that go with it, telling the same story from other points of view, Last Friends and The Man in the Wooden Hat.

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    1. They are top on my TBR list, Kristi!

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  4. I'll see if I can find it to download onto my Nook. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  5. I found a review of this book from The New Yorker. It said this:"Gardam’s prose is so economical that no moment she describes is either gratuitous or wasted."
    That sounds like my kind of writer!
    By the way, on your trips to Yorkshire have you been to Shibden Hall? I have just read that Sally Wainwright (she is also from Yorkshire) has written a story about it and it will be filmed soon and will come out in 2018. Do you know Shibden Hall and Anne Lister?

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    1. I have just checked the distance to Ripon on google maps. It's about 50 miles, a bit over an hour's drive, and not the direction we generally go when we're out on day trips - we have no car there... From what I glimpsed on Wikipedia, it looks like a good place to visit, but I doubt we'll make it there this year. There's always next year, though :-)

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  6. Good review. I wish I had it here to read. My own recommendation is for anything written by Stephen Leather. Of all the books I have read, his were the best.

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    1. Thank you for the recommendation! I have never heard of him but will have a look at his works.

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  7. Never heard of this author... Checking the Wiki article I see that there is no article in Swedish, so I take it her books have not been translated into Swedish. Which probably explains it! :)

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    1. I'd known about her before, but only because I had seen Jane Gardam's books at The Little Ripon Book Shop last year or so.

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