Old Filth by Jane Gardam

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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 away.

Borrowing 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 fate.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About Jane Gardam

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Jane Gardam is the only author to have twice been awarded Britain’s prestigious Costa (formerly Whitbread) Award for Best Novel. She was also a Booker prize finalist. Her novel The Man in the Wooden Hat was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times book prize and Old Filth was a finalist for the Orange Prize and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She lives in the south of England near the sea.
Published June 1, 2006 by Europa Editions. 289 pages
Genres: History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Old Filth

Kirkus Reviews

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Filth is an acronym (Failed In London, Try Hong Kong) and the affectionate nickname for Sir Edward Feathers, whose distinguished career, as an advocate and judge, began in Hong Kong in 1947.

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The New York Times

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She may have taken the name of her hero’s Hong Kong rival, Veneering, from an unattractive social climber in Dickens’s “Our Mutual Friend,” but a reading of her new novel seems convincing proof that the name Old Filth also belongs in the Dickensian pantheon of memorable characters.

Jul 23 2006 | Read Full Review of Old Filth

The Guardian

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Old Filth by Jane Gardam 320pp, Chatto & Windus, £15.99 Once a Raj orphan, always a Raj orphan.

Nov 20 2004 | Read Full Review of Old Filth

Entertainment Weekly

Properly known as Sir Edward Feathers, he owes his nickname to an acronym: He's considered ''the source of the old joke, Failed In London Try Hong Kong.'' He's ''spectacularly clean,'' Jane Gardam writes early on, ''ostentatiously clean.'' He's spectacularly lonely, too.

Jun 23 2006 | Read Full Review of Old Filth

Christian Science Monitor

Case in point: Louis Auchincloss, who has written, on average, a book a year for six decades – even while practicing trust and estate law full-time for more than 40 of those years.

Dec 15 2008 | Read Full Review of Old Filth


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