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Old Filth (Old Filth Trilogy 1) Paperback – 6 Feb 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 212 customer reviews

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  • Old Filth (Old Filth Trilogy 1)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (6 Feb. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349139490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349139494
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.8 x 19.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (212 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

I recommend it wholeheartedly for its economy, breadth of narrative, and its insight, humour and pathos (Tracey Thorn Mail on Sunday)

Book Description

A genuine masterpiece - funny, brilliant and wise - Old Filth is now reissued with a new cover.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jane Gardam can certainly write, unlike so many writers needlessly hyped by their publishers and those who should know better. There are many memorable phrases and images that linger in the memory, such as "layered like filo pastry in the mind" or the hero's realisation in talking to his dead wife "on his interior telephone" that she had left the receiver "off the hook". Writing as a craft is clearly understood by Gardam.
The problems begin when you try to categorise this novel. Is it a tragedy? Is it a comedy? Is it both? If the intention was to explore the fate of the "Raj orphans" and how their emotional development was stunted by being farmed out on foster-parents or near-relatives and packed away to boarding schools at a wholly inappropriate and early stage of childhood, such individual pain and sadness should not have been compromised by endless dollops of mirth and hilarity, as is the case here. It is one thing, if you happen to be William Shakespeare, to lighten the gloom and relieve the heartache, by having moments of relaxation after high tragedy. But Gardam is no Shakespeare. Both the tragedy and the comedy are diminished by the lack of distinction between the two.
There are far too many "useful" coincidences in this novel. Unlike E.M. Forster, of whom the same charge can be made, Gardam offers little by way of explanation. Why should the hero's arch-enemy, and his wife's seducer, come to live in the same village in Dorset, right next-door? And why should the hero, up in Oxford to sit his entrance exams, suddenly encounter one of his cousins in a local tea-room?
Yet even if you are willing to overlook all kinds of implausibility in the plot, the constant shifts in time and setting will eat up your patience.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a fine and beautifully written novel about getting old, loss and regret, and about character formation. The central theme, the lasting consequences of being a 'Raj orphan', is handled with extraordinary sensitivity and the sense of rootlessness is palpable. Some scenes are achingly touching, especially the one early on when the infant Edward is torn away from his first and perhaps only love, the Malay girl Ada who has looked after him since birth, because his father wholly neglected him, blaming him for the death of his mother. I also loved the prep school, which was very Fowlesian with its brisk no-nonsense head simply called 'Sir', who refers to his school as his 'Outfit'.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Old Filth (which stands for Failed In London Try Hong kong) is a child of the empire - born abroad and shipped back to the UK to foster parents and then to boarding school. It's a part of our colonial history that I'd never really considered, so I was pleased to be recommended this book. I found it interesting how the inspiration came to the author, Jane Gardam, as she passed by a well-dressed elderly man outside the Ritz (who looked like an illustration in an Edwardian novel). She developed him into a short story - which forms the beginning of the novel - and has since written a spin off novel about his wife and a third novel about his childhood. Unfortunately, the book is like a spaniel going through a hedgerow and setting up all sorts of interesting game. Sadly, many of the most colourful birds are not pursued and the result is a frustrating read - at times absorbing and at others pedestrian - which never coalesces into one satisfying story.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book very moving and difficult to take in. The way the book was gradually opened up to show the life of this aged protagonist meant that I found it impossible to put down. He became a real human who suffered and survived. I loved it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent read.
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Intreaging tale of an old man's memories of his humanity.
I found it to be a thought provoking page turner, that I know I will read again & again.
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A gentle, sad, compelling story.
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Ideal study for our Book Group, enjoyed it very much!
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