Old Filth

“Present us with a silver cup for something when you’re a filthy rich lawyer, I dare say? Yes. You’ll be a lawyer. Magnificent memory. Sense of logic, no imagination and no brains.” (Old Filth by Jane Gardam)

Old Filth CoverI’ve spoken before with a seemingly laid back attitude about mustering the courage to select books based solely on their attractiveness at the moment; as if I were really that unsnobby a reader. I find myself so pre-opinionated about books these days that it seems to me a great and idealistic adventure to take home a book without knowing anything about it. Yet, I’m pretty sure that I haven’t accomplished this feat of fearlessness in decades, for even when I try my eye is inevitably drawn to my favorite publishers. I suppose that when I advised you to pick a random book last year, it would have been more honest of me to encourage you to try out any Europa book, for then your bookish explorations will be in the safe hands of a superb publisher.

Old Filth refers to an impeccably dressed old judge for a witticism he made up in his youth: Failed in London Try Hong Kong. The book reals through time on Old Filth’s chance memories, springing back and forth as the reader tries to unravel how such a name could be attach itself to such a seemingly placid, uncomplicated man. Most noticeable is Jane Gardam’s skill with character and phrase. She attacks Old Filth from every angel until he is entirely revealed to the reader, all with the most fluid, smoothest prose I’ve ever read.

NYT illustrationRecommended Action: BuyBorrowTBRAvoid

Length: 289 pgs

Ending: appropriate

Further Reading: Those who have already experienced the delight of Gardam’s writing will be thrilled to know that Old Filth is now a trilogy – Book 2 is The Man in the Wooden Hat and Book 3, Old friends. Gardam is also frequently compared with other English favorites, such as Dickens and Stella Gibbons.


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