Sunday, June 17, 2012

Old Filth by Jane Gardam

This book tells the life story of 80+ year old Edward Feathers, or Old Filth (an acronym for Failed in London try Hong Kong).  For most of his adult life Feathers was a hard working lawyer and judge in the Far Eastern nations of the British Empire.  He and his wife retire to rural England and once he is widowed he reflects back on his troubling childhood and youth.  Born in what is now Malaysia, his mother dies in childbirth and at age 4, like other "children of the Raj" he is shipped back to a foster home and then private schools in England.  His foster mother in Wales is cruel and the memories of that time which have been suppressed for years ultimately emerge.  Feathers is a strange though likeable old man and it was interesting to escape into his mind.  His life also spanned the heyday and fall of the British Empire as well as the Second World War so the book addresses a great deal of history (at least through the eyes of the protagonist).  Sometimes the language was a bit old fashioned, and though it suited the character, it made it hard to read at times.  But all in all a worthwhile read.

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