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Old Filth by Jane Gardam

Old Filth by Jane GardamA member of an on-line book club I use highly recommended The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam, a novel which I had not previously come across. When I asked for some further info about it she suggested I read Old Filth first. Although The Man in the Wooden Hat is not strictly a sequel, Old Filth does provide a lot of background story and shares some characters.

I’m not quite sure how I have managed to completely miss Old Filth as it has been out since 2004 and appears to be well regarded (shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize for example) but it somehow managed to slip under my radar. Anyway, it turned out to be an excellent recommendation and I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

Read on for a full review…

-- Old Filth by Jane Gardam a Review by Des Greene --

I did wonder a little what I might be letting myself in for buying a book called Old Filth it conjured up images of saucy Victorian postcards or worse, but that is probably just a reflection on my own state of mind. As it turned out Filth is actually an acronym for Failed In London Try Hong Kong, and Old Filth is the nickname bestowed on the rather ancient and well respected barrister and judge Sir Edward Feathers.

A Raj orphan sent back to England at a young age, as many others were, for education and to escape the ravages of tropical disease, his story is told from birth all the way through to his dotage back in modern day England. With reminiscences stretching back over such a long and turbulent period of history, Jane Gardam has ample opportunity to furnish the reader with a rich and ever changing back drop, but it is the poignancy of the way in which Old Filth’s upbringing has shaped his character which I personally found to be the biggest strength of this novel.

There is a good deal of gentle humour to be found also, a lot of it derived from the way in which Filth as an older man views the world around him, a world which he feels is not changing for the better.

The main character is really a rather endearing old gent, and it has left me looking forward to reading more of his adventures; in particular this book doesn’t really delve into any of his court room exploits so there is certainly a lot more story to tell. I would perhaps not go so far as dubbing this novel a masterpiece as some reviewers have, but it is certainly very well written, moving and hugely enjoyable.

Already read Old Filth? What did you think of it? Please post a comment below, Novel Suggestions is always keen to hear your opinions.

Novel Suggestions only provides fiction book reviews of books that we personally recommend. We don’t spend our valuable time writing reviews of books which we feel would be a waste of your valuable time!

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