Old Filth Paperback – 27 Oct 2005
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I recommend it wholeheartedly for its economy, breadth of narrative, and its insight, humour and pathos (Tracey Thorn Mail on Sunday)
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)
A genuine masterpiece - funny, brilliant, wise: - 'runner-up' (the GUARDIAN) for the Orange Prize.See all Product description
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There is much in this book to enjoy and laugh at, and when it is dealing with the tribulations of being old, or with Edward's picaresque adventures in his youth, it rarely strikes a discordant note. There are a few too many coincidences to make the plot work and I could have done without Queen Mary making an appearance - imported real people rarely add much to a narrative. But there is only one disappointing chapter, the bizarre sequence when Claire's son Oliver and his partner Vanessa come to visit. I don't think Gardam can write well about today's young people, and this yuppie couple are wholly unconvincing. Particularly irritating is the idea that anybody visiting their mother in Saffron Walden from London would overnight in Stamford, which is 60 miles away! The George at Stamford is good but not THAT good.
There are some eye-opening descriptions of the life of British ex-pats in the colonies which ring true.(Except that the mother tongue of Hong Kong natives is Cantonese, not Mandarin!)
My only complaint is, that it seems as if a n important part of OF's life story is left out. We see him in old age, and follow him through childhood and early adulthood, but his highly successful career as a barrister and judge in Hong Kong, for which he is famous,is never described in any detail. In old age he is haunted by a mysterious incident which occurred when he was eight and living with foster parents, and seeks resolution for this, but it would have been interesting to see how this incident had affected him throughout his career as a lawyer, which it must have done, and how his own attitude to what happened was changed by later experiences, as it must have been.
I agree with some other reviewers that the title is a little off-putting. I think if I were the author, I'd worry it might deter people from buying the book.