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Old Filth

Jane Gardam

6 Reviews

Rated 0

Fiction, Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

A genuine masterpiece - funny, brilliant and wise.

'It's a cliche to compare novelists to Jane Austen, but in the case of Jane Gardam it happens to be true. Her diamond-like prose, her understanding of the human heart, her formal inventiveness and her sense of what it is to be alive - young, old, lonely, in love - never fades' Amanda Craig

'I love Jane Gardam, especially Old Filth' Nina Stibbe

'Her work, like Sylvia Townsend Warner's, has that appealing combination of elegance, erudition and flinty wit' Patrick Gale

'One of the finest writers around. Old Filth has stayed with me for years...Can't think of anyone who achieves so much with so few words' Sathnam Sanghera


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 (Failed In London, Try Hong Kong) to his final working days as a respected judge at the 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 demands of his 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.

Jane Gardam has written a literary masterpiece 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.

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Praise for Old Filth

  • A magnificent, deeply moving and compassionate portrait of an era and a sentimental education. Please read it - Daily Mail

  • Beautiful, vivid and defiantly funny - The Times

  • This novel is surely Gardam's masterpiece. On the human level, it is one of the most moving fictions I have read for years . . . This is the rare novel that drives its reader forward while persistently waylaying and detaining by the sheer beauty and inventiveness of its style. One must savour every phrase. The marriage of quirky eccentricity and psychological authenticity is a Gardam technique, but here her cunning wit, moving deftly between scenes and eras, displays the tragedy of a vintage world forever passing away - Guardian

  • What a spiky brilliant sledgehammer of a novel is Jane Gardam's Old Filth - Patrick Ness

  • She does fiction as it should be done, with confidence and insight - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, praise for The Stories

  • I recommend it wholeheartedly for its economy, breadth of narrative, and its insight, humour and pathos - Mail on Sunday

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Jane Gardam

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.

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