Saturday, February 4, 2012

BOOK: Old Filth by Jane Gardam

Old Filth by Jane Gardam, 260 pages

Orange January: Shortlist 2005

Edward Feathers, Old Filth (Failed in London, Try Hong Kong) has returned to England in his retirement days. He's a legend in legal circles, a Raj Orphan (born in the East, sent to England for a childhood), and a pretty lonely, sad guy. Gardam tells his life story in a back and forth narrative, explaining how he ended up the way he is.

Filth is so remote and reserved, that is is not until the reader nears the end, as layer upon layer of his life is revealed that the deep sympathy for Filth develops. The miracle is that he survived and thrived based on the abandonment he suffered his whole life.  Gardam writes in a very readable style, and the slow subtle details that are described make the experience a good one. She's not just stating what happened, and it's not from Filth's perspective exactly. We don't spend time in his head, we just follow him around and observe his life. There is a detached view, which is part of Filth's stiff upper lip view of life, British style. 

There is a sequel, with his wife's story, The Man in the Wooden Hat.I just adore the covers of these books, and I think reading Betty's story will be a welcome addition to Old Filth's life.

Also reviewed: Megan at Leafing Through Life;