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[[ read online pdf ]] Old FilthAuthor Jane Gardam –

I loved this book I picked it up thinking the title looked like fun and found myself instead in a book about emotional constriction and concealments in the lives of retired judge Sir Edward Feathers Old Filth himself , his wife Betty and the third main character, Veneering.While the story has tragic elements that other writers might turn into sentimental slush, Gardam maintains a superb balance between tragedy and comedy, making this book about displaced lives very easy to read, profoundly moving and funny all at the same time She has a great gift for dry humour, which is sometimes so gentle that it can almost be missed, and sometimes so sharp you gasp.This book, published in 2004, was reviewed as Gardam s masterpiece in the Guardian was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and lost to Lionel Shriver s We Need To Talk About Kevin.Later reviews for the second and third volumes in what has turned out to be a trilogy have referred to it as Gardam s masterpiece as a whole Here is the TLS 2013 of the third volume Last Friends. FILTH is an acronym for Failed in London, Try Hong Kong That s what his colleagues at the Bar called him, but not out of irony And Eddie Feathers, or later in his life also known as Sir Edward Feathers, was one of the professional Brits landing up in the outposts of the British Empire In his case, his parents were already there and he actually was born in Malaya now Malaysia His mother passed away after his birth, leaving a scared, emotionally unattached father to first hand him over to his carer, Ada, to live in her village, and then rescued by his aunt May and sent to England to become a proper Englishman He became one of the Raj orphans in the British educational and foster care system.The book starts out with judge Feathers retired and alone He and his wife retired to Dorset in England after his long career in the East as barrister and judgeIt had been said that he fled London Bar, very young, very poor, on a sudden whim just after the War, and had done magnificently well in Hong Kong from the start Being a modest man, they said, he had called himself a parvenu, a fraud, a carefree spiritHe was eighty two years old and ready to face his memories and past He was wealthy and successful in his career, but lack emotional commitment to anybody and anything On the surface he acted like an old curmudgeon, with very little known about his true feelings But Betty, his late wife, understood him better than anyone, even though she never asked of him than he was willing to give Children was not asked And not given He had married a Scotswoman but she had been born in Peking She was dumpy and tweedy with broad Lanarkshire shoulders and square hands, but she spoke Mandarin perfectly and was much at home with Chinese ways and idiom than she ever felt on her very rare visits to Scotland Her passion for jewellery was Chinese and her strong Scottish fingers rattled the trays of jade in the street markets of Kowloon, stirring the stones like pebbles on a beach When you do that, Old Filth would say when they were young and he was still aware of her all the time your eyes are almond shaped Poor Old Betty, he would say to her ghost across in another armchair in the house in Dorset Old Filth begins to scramble his memories around to find the source of the person he had become His childhood memories held an incident he could never discuss with anyone He had to confront his memories of his foster parents, Ma and Didds, and for that he needed to complete circles with family and friends who left his life a long time ago Only he knew why he did not see an irony in his nickname He had to confess to a priest, although he was of the opinion that he did not need help to come to an end.Bittersweet scenes, combined with humorous moments, made this an excellent read The author presents a character study of a man who never felt he belonged, who always felt that he was left behind LikeA Man Called Oveby Frederik Backman,Major Pettigrew s Last Standby Helen Simonson,The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fryby Rachel Joyce, andThe Book Of Ebenezer Le Pageby G.B Edwards, this book introduces a seemingly grumpy old loner to the world, who had a totally different story to tell when he finally decided to do so.This book forms part of a series trilogy Old Filth Old Filth 1 The Man in the Wooden Hat Old Filth 2 Last Friends Old Filth 3 Definitely recommended for the gentle reader who enjoys historical fiction. Reading this book at first I thought it was superlative, further on I simply thought it merely excellent, but by the end I suppose I felt it was just very good Although I do wonder mildly quite what the Orange prize winner in 2005 was like if this was only one of the also rans.Old Filth is an end of life story The title is the nickname and old joke of the central character Failed in London, try Hong Kong a former judge, barrister, and abused child.The novel s chapters alternate between the present the old man, funerals, visiting equally elderly relatives, ill health and worse acquaintances and his youth birth in Malaya, farmed out to Wales, schooling, war time activities, post war qualification as a barrister I suppose my disenchantment had two completely unfair causes, firstly I got used to Gardam s technique, secondly there was eventually a fullish revelation of the Welsh childhood Up until that point the Welsh childhood was elusive, coy, seductive, mysterious, like algebra one knew only through its absence, and the sense of how much an impact that this mysterious something had had on the lives of the characters When the revelation came, I had that old is that it Grphummpf reaction OK, I was missing the point, which was that there were a number of people involved and they all reacted differently to their experiences but the significance was the impact those experiences had on the rest of their lives and that is something that Gardam makes us aware of I can only plead before the court that reading is a subjective experience As it happened Old Filth left his Black Cap behind in Hong Kong, hopefully Mme Gardam did the same.Something else here was the brief aside about how child abuse was, to a greater extent than today, when at least it is something that is to some degree talked about as a problem, institutionalised in the Empire structures One of the characters talks about the children s books she had as a child full of pictures of children beating each other the prefectorial system as it was called in emulation of old Sparta no doubt.This is a British Empire novel view spoiler but perhaps not just an Empire story, similar ones get told all the time hide spoiler I m not sure why I love Jane Gardam s writing as much as I do She bowls me over I m hoping that it s than the fact that she writes about the kind of people I grew up with my background is solid upper middle class strong emphasis on education, high parental expectations, all that good stuff, so that the academics, barristers, doctors and other professionals who populate her fiction form a milieu which is instantly recognizable to me But it is than that she is a bloody good writer, creating indelible characters that stay with you in prose that is terrifically effective without ever calling attention to itself OK Let me go on the record, in case you haven t figured it out by now I am not a particular fan of fiction that s clever flashy gimmicky because far often than not it signals an author who s insecure, narcissistic, or both and is usually a harbinger of major deficiencies in important aspects like characterization and plot I could name names, but the list would go on for days Gardam s calm, self assured style may have something to do with her late start as a writer her first novel for adults was published when she was 50 When Old Filth came out, in 2004, she would have been 78 I enjoy imagining the scene when the inevitable request must have come from her publisher to come up with a marketable title her photos suggest a woman who doesn t suffer fools gladly But in this case one has to think that there must have been a better title Old Filth is a slightly offputting title which gives no indication of how terrific this book is.FILTH is an acronym for Failed in London, Try Hong Kong , which describes a particular sector of the British professional and civil service classes, with the not so subtle implication that those who chose to work in former outposts of the empire may not have done so as a first choice The book is the story of Eddie Feathers, a successful Hong Kong barrister and so called Raj orphan , born in Malaya, orphaned, and returned to England to be educated When the story opens, Feather is already retired Gardam flashes back and forward along the timeline throughout the novel, so skillfully that it s never annoying Although Eddie enjoys professional success, his emotional life is far circumscribed and Gardam sketches its limits with subtlety, warmth and humor Even better, she continues the story in last year s The Man in the Wooden Hat While Old Filth explores the Feathers marriage and the love triangle that prevents it from being emotionally fulfilling from Eddie s viewpoint, the sequel presents events from the point of view of Betty, his wife TMitWH accomplishes the amazing feat of not just matching the brilliance of OF, but improving on it The NY Times reviewer timesreview wonders how a writer of Jane Gardam s general awesomeness can remain neglected by U.S readers who apparently find time to read the anemic maunderings of that one note whiner Anita Brookner To be honest, I m a bit puzzled myself This is a great book. Marvelous Great read Why Well, it is informative it depicts the life of a Raj orphan, of which there were many Through books such as this history becomes real, not just a subject of dates and numbers I like learning as I read Further FILTH, the main character of the book, does not have an ordinary life, but as the author emphasizes everyone mistakenly thought he did How often do we think that that person doesn t have our problems Think if we only knew about all these ordinary people How often do we truly know other people FILTH stands for Failed In London Try Hong Kong and he was employed in the British Legal system This is a man who truly believes in justice, whatever that is This is a man who did his best to live a worthy life regardless of the difficulties life threw at him Some authors love misery and almost regale in it, but Gardam although depicting very difficult circumstances, shows how humans can struggle through Each character found their own way to survive Succes survival is never a defined unvaried solution There is never only one way to achieve it The diversity of people and how we each deal with life is amazing. What a brilliant book For me it is a true masterpiece Jane Gardam wrote an incredibly subtle book about the Raj orphan Edward Feathers, a.k.a Old Filth The story has interesting locations and people His father was a district head in Malaysia and had baby Edward raised by the Malay nanny in the next village, as Edward s mother died when delivering his son He did not see his son till he sent him off to England It is implied that the father suffered from post traumatic stress from fighting in WW I But, then again, as you progress with the story you learn that Edward was one of the many Raj children who were sent all alone to England at a very early age High class colonials were of the opinion that their young children could easily be hurt or killed by living in the tropics, so they should be sent off to boarding schools in England for their own good However, there seemed not to be an awareness at all that what they did to their children only resulted in everlasting trauma s of the children feeling displaced and unloved.It is sometimes hard to read about the surpressed feelings of Old Filth Filth realised that only diligence was expected from him and he delivered He suceeded at Oxford and even gained a great reputation as a judge in Hong Kong But friendship and love were harder fields to conquer and he never quite succeeded The novel is bittersweet and sad to its deepest core, although there is a lot of beautiful irony as well For me the book was very moving On to the second Old Filth book Old Filth is one of those critically approbated books that I feel I should like than I actually did Detailing the life of Sir Edward Feathers, a distinguished advocate and judge, Jane Gardam presents a detailed character study of a man who is, quite literally, a foreigner in his own life I respect Gardam s economic prose as well as her Dickensian cast of characters The problem is that I simply did not connect to the novel I admired it, but I simply didn t enjoy my time with it Old Filth is a fascinating hybrid of heart rending pathos and humanistic comedy, a novel that will and has appealed to a great many people For me, though, it was a respectable, but unaffecting piece of writing. Update 10 29 It has been a couple days since I ve finished Old Filth which I thought was quite good, but not special or memorable Yet Old Filth has been stalking me Eddie Feathers keeps popping into my head I m been thinking about his childhood, poor Eddie Wondering about Betty I think this novel is stronger than I initially thought I m changing to a solid 4 stars 3.5 stars Intelligent, witty, enjoyable But no superlatives for Old Filth I bought Old Filth way back in 2008, when I only had a few hundred books in my library, when that library only increased by a few books each month, and when I had only been on Goodreads for a year or so and hadn t met most of you fine people and your shelves yet It seemed interesting Rather, it seemed like a good thing to read after John Williams Stoner But I didn t read it then, and so, five years later, my library approaching a thousand books with a few dozen added monthly and added to my wish lists every day, I nearly tossed Old Filth on the discard pile Nearly Combing my shelves and culling the stuff I didn t really want, just to delay that inevitable 1000 book milestone if I haven t reached it already I ve been a bit lax about cataloging my stuff lately , used to be easy But once I discard the books that only mildly interested me when I bought them years ago, and which don t really capture my attention now, I run into the ones that mildly interested me then and still, kinda, maaaaaybe interest me now, and what do I do about them Do I toss them Do I read them first Try a few pages Try a few Keep reading Fall in love Finish the book and give it a hug before returning it to the shelf Wonder how the hell I managed to go so long without reading it and wonder how I could have possibly considered getting rid of it Order the other two in the trilogy, thus adding to my library instead of shrinking it And not regret any of it Yeah, so that s what happened. Sir Edward Feathers Has Had A Brilliant Career, From His Early Days As A Lawyer In Southeast Asia, Where He Earned The Nickname Old Filth FILTH Being An Acronym For Failed In London Try Hong Kong To His Final Working Days As A Respected Judge At The English Bar Yet Through It All He Has Carried With Him The Wounds Of A Difficult And Emotionally Hollow Childhood Now An Eighty Year Old Widower Living In Comfortable Seclusion In Dorset, Feathers Is Finally Free From The Regimen Of Work And The Sentimental Scaffolding That Has Sustained Him Throughout His Life He Slips Back Into The Past With Ever Mounting Frequency And Intensity, And On The Tide Of These Vivid, Lyrical Musings, Feathers Approaches A Reckoning With His Own History Not All The Old Filth, It Seems, Can Be Cleaned AwayBorrowing From Biography And History, Jane Gardam Has Written A Literary Masterpiece Reminiscent Of Rudyard Kipling S Baa Baa, Black Sheep That Retraces Much Of The Twentieth Century S Torrid And Momentous History Feathers Childhood In Malaya During The British Empire S Heyday, His Schooling In Pre War England, His Professional Success In Southeast Asia And His Return To England Toward The End Of The Millennium, Are Vantage Points From Which The Reader Can Observe The March Forward Of An Eventful Era And The Steady Progress Of That Man, Sir Edward Feathers, Old Filth Himself, Who Embodies The Century S FateOld Filth Was Nominated For The Orange Prize