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Old Filth [Paperback]

Jane Gardam
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 7.30 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

27 Oct 2005

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.

Frequently Bought Together

Old Filth + The Man In The Wooden Hat (Old Filth Trilogy 2) + Last Friends (Old Filth Trilogy 3)
Price For All Three: 19.22

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (27 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034911840X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349118406
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 94,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Gardam has been awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for a lifetime's contribution to the enjoyment of literature; has twice won a Whitbread Award and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Product Description


A well-executed plot, fascinating characters, humorous moments, varied settings, a study of the ageing process; this book is a thoroughly enjoyable read and offers plenty for discussion. (NEW BOOKS MAGAZINE)

A novel of great perception and quietly killing prose. (INDEPENDENT)

Gardam invents an apparently composed character, and then disassembles him into pieces which- on closer inspection-look jagged and in poor repair: unhappy memories, cooled emotions, a broken heart. (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

Gardam, the supreme novelist of young girls, also does old age brilliantly and proves that she can penetrate the male psyche too. (GUARDIAN WEEKLY)

Book Description

A genuine masterpiece - funny, brilliant, wise: - 'runner-up' (the GUARDIAN) for the Orange Prize.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever, subtle and very funny 30 Oct 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A gentle yet gripping story (I won't indulge in spoilers see reviewer below if you want your pleasure ruined) that describes the life of a distinguished judge taking the unpleasant consequences of his childhood and carefully unwrapping them to show how they have echoed and shaped his adult life. The book is at different times very funny but also very poignant and tragic. I think the great strength of Gardam's writing lies in her effortless understatement. Too many writers now either have nothing to say or else tell their stories with great big hairy signposts you can't fail to miss.

Engaging and intelligent without being obscure and all done in less than 250 pages - amazing!
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real treat 19 Mar 2006
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Don’t be put off by the horrid title or by the fact that the main character, whose real name is Sir Edward Feathers, is frequently referred to as Filth, even by his loving wife: the nickname of this distinguished lawyer who had made his career in the Far East, stood for Failed In London Try Hong Kong. Otherwise no name could be less appropriate for this old man who is described as “spectacularly clean” and whose kaleidoscopic life story, in England and the Far East, this is. It would be a spoiler if I described it or the gaps in the story which the author leaves to our imagination to fill in.
The book and the characters in it are quirky, funny, sad, and touching; the touches of period flavour (ca. 1923 to 2002 - though there seems to be an error on the very last page) are spot-on; and Jane Gardam’ style is idiosyncratic, often staccato, but a pleasure to read. Her similes or descriptions are never hackneyed, never forced, but always fresh and arresting. I found the novel a real treat.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and moving 18 Sep 2005
By A Customer
What marvelous characters! This book opens a whole world--the world of the Raj Orphans, those sent back to Britain from the farflung Empire between the two wars--and makes it come alive through the complex character of Edward Feathers, Old Filth. As he moves in and out of time, his experiences bring to the reader not only magically historical moments but characters so beautifully drawn their equals are rarely seen in modern fiction. From his best friend at school to the "Chinese dwarf" with whom he sails back East as a teenager to his mad cousin Babs, the cast of Old Filth's life turns out to be rich and quirky and not at all what many of his admirers might have guessed as they describe him as someone to whom "nothing happened."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nurture conquered? 15 Aug 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great book - it is technically a novel, but it could almost be an illustrated academic thesis about the ability of the human spirit to rise above early childhood adversity .......or does he?

The true stories of the Orphans of the Raj was not previously known to me, however Old Filth- when we first meet him - is a widower in retirement in England after a glittering career in the Far East. Having served the interests of 'justice' for fewer finacial rewards in his later years in Hong Kong than his previosu practice accrued, he feels content with the 'outomes' of his life. His colleagues and juniors are in awe of him and talk about him as someone to whom very little happnes....yet as his memory brings back long-buried experiences as he works through his grieving process for his wife - who was equally competent if emotionally distant from him (and needy) - the inner sadness of an isolated soul in life-long torment and contrition is revealed.

A must read if you wish to be a well-rounded human being.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Although I haven't quite finished it yet, I already know this is the novel I'll be urging readers to buy this year. It's so good I'm savouring it every night...like Shirley Hazzard's The Great Fire, it has the absolute mastery of tone which perhaps can only come at the peak of a novelist's career.
Old Filth (Failed In London Try Hong Kong)is a retired octogenarian barrister whose formidable wife Betty has just died. Unable to feel her loss consciously, he drives across England to visit the other two "Raj orphans" of his boyhood, both women, having an "internal telephone conversation" with his dead wife while pretending things are normal. Interwoven with this is the story of Edward Fevvers, whose mother died in childbirth and who was exiled from the paradise in Malasia where his malarial father lived. His betrayals and reversals make up an agonising portrait of mental suffering which is never fully confronted, but which is also mediated by a gift for irony. Gardam is one of our finest writers, and her perennial theme is how the human spirit survives despite great loneliness and against seemingly insurmountable odds. Her other great novels are Crusoe's Daughter, God on the Rocks and Queen of the Tambourine. If she doesn't at least get short-listed for the Booker with this it will be a crying shame.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unquestionable five stars 6 Jun 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jane Gardam's novel is very funny, very sad and very clever. Using the style and techniques of a detective thriller the shallowness and sadness of the life of Edward Fevvers -- distinguished advocate, judge and pillar of the Hong Kong Bar but equally 'Raj orphan', unloved youth, unloved husband and unhappy old man -- is laid bare. Through clever but unfussy writing, excellent pacing and narrative timing, the reader is drawn completely into wanting to discover the secret of Fevvers' outlook on his world. Hinted at throughout the story, the dark episode that lies at the heart of the man's conduct and attitudes is only revealed at the conclusion.
Although the final line is devastatingly sad, overall the book is extremely entertaining -- full of sly jokes, clever insights and vivid characters.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars WItty, clever & beautifully written
Loved the whole trilogy, each book adding another layer of detail to what had gone before. Might have to read them again!
Published 1 day ago by Mrs. Rachel Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars FILTH REVIEW
Published 10 days ago by Margaret L. Russell
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting tale
I wish Queen Mary had not been brought into the story as it was not necessary to have famous characters. The lives of the main characters were interesting enough.
Published 10 days ago by Petunia
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Filth
History long forgotten how many Rajha orphans was their?
Great story enjoyed all the characters.
Will be referring the book to the office book club.
Published 28 days ago by Donna Rose Alexander
4.0 out of 5 stars Often moving
Often moving tale of what could happen to Raj Orphans when sent thousands of miles 'home'. Intriguing structure keeps one reading on.
Published 1 month ago by Timothy M Sharp
4.0 out of 5 stars A jolly good read
This first in a trilogy engaged my attention and my sympathies. Jane Gardam has captured the tone and feel of the era and the brutality of of being an only child and rejected by... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ennis Bartman
4.0 out of 5 stars Review
Really enjoyed this book. The style of writing was lovely and the factual events were really interesting. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Janice M Griffiths
5.0 out of 5 stars What a read.
Beautifully written and so descriptive you can feel and smell Asia. Having lived through much of the era Filth covers, it brings back memories.
Published 1 month ago by Alan L.
2.0 out of 5 stars not for me
expats abroad behaving badly ( yawn ) hackneyed old cliches , mild orientalism , of its day maybe or at least seems dated , couldn't finish
Published 1 month ago by Hampstead Mackem
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and enjoyable read
A good read would recommend.
Filth is so well described I could almost see him in my room and could certainly hear his voice from the pages.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs A.
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