The ‘Old Filth’ Trilogy

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I wish I could remember who it was recommended Jane Gardam. I think I read about it in one of my many newsletters about books. Whoever it was – bravo! I discovered a new author – always great – and a superb one at that.

The Old Filth trilogy is about a barrister named Sir Edward Feathers. He has an extremely difficult childhood which includes being sent to a foster home where he has all sorts of mishaps and adventures and this provides the reader with an understanding of his future motivations and behaviours. Despite a difficult start in life he goes on to train in the law and is incredibly successful in his profession.

Sir Edward Feathers was a ‘Raj Orphan.’ His father worked in Singapore and he was sent away. He always believed he would be reunited with his father and this separation affects his life deeply.

The book is narrated in the 3rd person and begins when Edward is retired and living in Dorset with his wife Betty. She and another character called Edward Veneering are the other two main characters in the book and they are the focus of books two and three. The story then jumps back and forwards in time but this is done seamlessly.

The prose is rich and detailed as we follow Edward from childhood to London and then Hong Kong which is where he gets his nickname ‘Old Filth. Filth is an acronym that stands for ‘Failed in London try Hong Kong.’

Jane Gardam has won numerous literary awards and I can fully understand why. This novel is so rich in evocative gorgeous geographical detail of all the various countries Sir Edward Feathers travels to or lives in. The dialogue is witty and sharp and the novel is full of wit and compassion while describing some of the darkest days of colonial and post-colonial Britain and the Far East.

I was immediately drawn into the story and the characters.

I highly recommend this trilogy. I look forward to reading more Jane Gardam. If you have read any of her books I would love to know which ones you enjoyed. Thanks!