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Old Filth (50th Anniversary Edition)

Orange Prize, 2005

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780349145266

Price: £9.99

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Jane Gardam’s funny and wise masterpiece, reissued with a new introduction by Nina Stibbe

Old Filth has stayed with me for years’

‘Sharp, humane, generous and wonderfully funny’

‘The last great book I read’

‘Gardam’s masterpiece’

Filth, in his heydey, was an international lawyer with a practice in the Far East. Now, only the oldest QCs can remember that his nickname stood for Failed In London Try Hong Kong. Long ago, Old Filth was a Raj orphan – one of the many young children sent ‘Home’ from the East to be fostered and educated in England. Jane Gardam’s novel tells his story, from his birth in what was then Malaya to the extremities of his old age. In doing so, she not only encapsulates a whole period from the glory days of the British Empire, through the Second World War, to the present and beyond, but also illuminates the complexities of the character known variously as Eddie, the Judge, Fevvers, Filth, Master of the Inner Temple, Teddy and Sir Edward Feathers.


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... her cunning wit, moving deftly between scenes and eras, displays the tragedy of a vintage world forever passing away
Excellent and compulsively readable... Old Filth belongs in the Dickensian pantheon of memorable characters
New York Times
Her work, like Sylvia Townsend Warner's, has that appealing combination of elegance, erudition and flinty wit
Patrick Gale
Will bring immense pleasure to readers who treasure fiction that is intelligent, witty, sophisticated and - a quality encountered all too rarely in contemporary culture - adult
Washington Post
Told with compassion and great style, Gardam seems to get better as she gets older
John Humphrys, New Statesman
I can't say I've read anything else like Old Filth, which stands out for me as a singular, opalescent novel, a thing of beauty that gives immense gratification to its lucky readers
Meg Wolitzer
Gardam pulls off the near-impossible trick of great emotional depth delivered with wingtip lightness... Her characters are drawn with rich humour, and Old Filth himself is a marvellous, moving creation whose company you find yourself sad to leave
Beautifully written and strangely moving
A novel of great perception and quietly killing prose
Beautiful, vivid and defiantly funny
The Times
What a spiky brilliant sledgehammer of a novel is Jane Gardam's Old Filth
Patrick Ness
The last great book I read
Rachel Weisz, Grazia
With superb skill and economy, Jane Gardam encapsulates the long lifetime of Sir Edward Feathers... Witty, humane, wise - this end-of-Empire tragicomedy is a masterclass in conducting shifting empathies
Daily Mail
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
Like Samuel Beckett, Gardam 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
Superb... quiet beauty, sly wit and heartbreaking humanity... the author has poignantly distilled a life less ordinary into 259 unforgettable pages
Sunday Times
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
I recommend it wholeheartedly for its economy, breadth of narrative, and its insight, humour and pathos
Tracey Thorn, Mail on Sunday
Sparkles with Gardam's wit, sensibility and poignancy and it deservedly earned an Orange Prize nomination... a fictional life of absorbing, emotional sophistication about memory, loss and the vestiges of empire... a beautiful, melancholy novel which captivates, saddens and delights
Sharp, humane, generous and wonderfully funny, she is one of our very finest writers
Hilary Mantel
A magnificent, deeply moving and compassionate portrait of an era and a sentimental education
Daily Mail
Jane Gardam's work is rich and diverse and she writes beautifully... She's a treasure of contemporary English writing
Ian McEwan
Excellently observed and quietly moving... Gardam invents an apparently composed character, and then disassembles him into pieces which - on closer inspection - look jagged and in poor repair
Independent on Sunday