Old Filth
Old Filth
Book for March 2007
Group 1
British novelist Gardam has twice won the Whitbread and was short listed for the Man Booker. This, her 15th novel, was short listed in Britain for the Orange Prize; it outlines 20th-century British history through the life of Sir Edward Feathers, a barrister whose acronymic nickname provides the title: "Failed in London, Try Hong Kong." At nearly 80, Feathers, retired in Dorset after many years as a respected Hong Kong judge, is a hollow man with few real friends and a cold, sexless marriage that has just ended with the death of his wife, Betty. For the first time, "Filth" (as even Betty called him) delves into the past that produced him: a "Raj orphan" raised by a series of surrogates while his father worked in Singapore, Filth served briefly in WWII (guarding the Queen) and had a lackluster stint as a London barrister before emigrating. The flashbacks contrast British privilege and the chaos that ensues when the empire (especially Filth's childhood Malaya), starts to crumble. As Filth undertakes chaotic visits to his Welsh foster home and other sites, Gardam's sharp, acerbic style counterpoints Feathers's dryness. Well-rounded secondary figures further highlight his emptiness and that of empire.

About the Author
Jane Gardam
Jane Mary Gardam OBE (born 11 July 1928, Coatham, North Yorkshire) is a British author of children's and adult fiction. She also reviews for the Spectator and the Telegraph, and writes for BBC radio, where her current project is six programmes on the suburbs. She lives in Kent, Wimbledon, and Yorkshire. She has won numerous literary awards, including the Whitbread Award, twice. She was married to David Gardam QC and had three children, Tim, Kitty and Tom. Tim Gardam is the Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford. Her daughter was the botanical artist Catharine Nicholson (1958-2011), whose pen and ink drawings won her three Royal Horticultural Society gold medals. Tom Gardam now lives in Boston Massachusetts.

She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours.