Books

02 February 2016

Old Filth by Jane Gardam, UK 2004



The Old Filth (Filth: Failed In London Try Hong Kong) of the book is Sir Edward Feathers, lawyer and judge, who is born in Malaysia some years after the Great War. As a very small child, he is sent back to England on his own to be fostered out and educated. His life winds through rejection, abuse, war, marriage and what is obviously a brilliant career (he definitely did not fail in London), but which, in the end, is summed up by a judge: '… difficult to say exactly what he'd done… '

Eddie's life is told in flashbacks without any chronology. Like a painting, his life is built up in layers – sometimes the author hesitates at one particular point or at one particular colour before hopping over layers and years to investigate a completely different point or a completely different colour. Strange to say, the method works, and there is no confusion or irritation. Bit by bit Sir Edward Feathers fills out and becomes a well-rounded, believable character. 
 
Photo of Jane Gardam is from www.theguardian.com

This is a book about a particular period in English history; it is also a book about survival. Most importantly, it is a book about our need to feel loved and to belong. Beautifully written, it is a book that should not be missed.

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