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Old Filth

Orange Prize, 2005

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781405525480

Price: £8.99

‘I love Jane Gardam, especially Old Filth’ Nina Stibbe

‘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

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

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.


It's a cliché 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
A magnificent, deeply moving and compassionate portrait of an era and a sentimental education
Daily Mail
Beautiful, vivid and defiantly funny
The Times
I recommend it wholeheartedly for its economy, breadth of narrative, and its insight, humour and pathos
Tracey Thorn, Mail on Sunday
Jane Gardam's work is rich and diverse and she writes beautifully. She's a treasure of contemporary English writing
Ian McEwan
She does fiction as it should be done, with confidence and insight
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, praise for The Stories
What a spiky brilliant sledgehammer of a novel is Jane Gardam's Old Filth
Patrick Ness
Jane Gardam, once shortlisted for the Booker Prize, is one of our finest novelists yet her work has yet to reach a wide readership. Like Samuel Beckett, she continually explores the corrosive loneliness of being alive and the courage it takes to continue...Readers will relish Old Filth for its compassionate wisdom, its comprehension of the way we lived then and live now, and for its absolute mastery of authorial tone - the product of a lifetime of experience and craft. It is a Rembrandt portrait of a novel. Don't miss it
Amanda Craig, New Statesman
Typical excellence and compulsive readability . . . the miracle of "Old Filth" is that its hero eludes sociological or psychological pigeonholing. If he is a characteristic Raj orphan, he is also triumphantly his own man
New York 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