Skip to product information
1 of 1

Jane Gardam

Old Filth (Old Filth Trilogy)

Old Filth (Old Filth Trilogy)

Regular price $15.99 USD
Regular price $18.00 USD Sale price $15.99 USD
Sale Sold out
Shipping calculated at checkout.

First in the Old Filth trilogy. A New York Times Notable Book. “Old Filth belongs in the Dickensian pantheon of memorable characters” (The New York Times Book Review).

Sir Edward Feathers has had a brilliant career, from his early days as a lawyer in Southeast Asia, where he earned the nickname Old Filth (FILTH being an acronym for Failed In London Try Hong Kong) to his final working days as a respected judge at the English bar. Yet through it all he has carried with him the wounds of a difficult childhood. Now an eighty-year-old widower living in comfortable seclusion in Dorset, Feathers is finally free from the regimen of work and the sentimental scaffolding that has sustained him throughout his life. He slips back into the past with ever mounting frequency and intensity, and on the tide of these vivid, lyrical musings, Feathers approaches a reckoning with his own history. Not all the old filth, it seems, can be cleaned away.

Borrowing from biography and history, Jane Gardam has written an unforgettable novel reminiscent of Evan S. Connell’s books Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge, and Rudyard Kipling’s Baa Baa, Black Sheep. Retracing much of the twentieth century’s torrid and momentous history, Old Filth is the first installment of an immersive and atmospheric trilogy that, taken together, tells the moving story of a long, complicated marriage.

Old Filth is an extraordinary novel―the structure, the characters, the sweep of time.”―Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House

“I don't know why Gardam isn't universally celebrated and beloved. Her prose is dazzling, and she writes with a kind of subdued but wicked humor that takes a moment to clamp down on you.”―Lauren Groff, author of 
Fates and Furies

“I think Jane Gardam is a genius and should be far more widely read. She has actually made me gasp, slap a book shut and say, ‘She can’t do that!,’ open it up and realize that she can, she has, and it works.”―Denise Mina, author of 


The New York Times Book Review
The Washington Post
The San Francisco Chronicle
New York Magazine
The Globe & Mail

“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.”
The Washington Post

“Gardam is an exquisite storyteller, picking up threads, laying them down, returning to them and giving them new meaning . . . 
Old Filth is sad, funny, beautiful and haunting.”The Seattle Times

“A masterpiece of storytelling.”―
The Dallas Morning News

“[Jane Gardam is] the best contemporary British writer you probably haven’t heard of.”―Maureen Corrigan, NPR


View full details

Editorial Reviews

"Old Filth" by Jane Gardam is a remarkable exploration of a life richly lived, blending humor, history, and poignant reflection. Sir Edward Feathers, known as Old Filth (Failed In London Try Hong Kong), traces his extraordinary journey from his early legal career in Southeast Asia to becoming a respected judge in England. Gardam delves into Feathers' complex past, marked by a challenging childhood, and explores the reverberations of his experiences.

The novel, the first in the Old Filth trilogy, offers a Dickensian depth to its characters and paints a vivid picture of twentieth-century history. Gardam weaves a narrative that effortlessly moves through time, capturing the essence of a long, intricate marriage. As Feathers grapples with his memories in his secluded life in Dorset, readers are taken on a journey that is both lyrical and introspective.

Praised by Ann Patchett and Lauren Groff, Gardam's prose is dazzling, laced with subdued yet wicked humor. The novel's structure and characters have been hailed as extraordinary, earning it a spot on the Orange Prize shortlist and numerous "Best Book of the Year" accolades.

For those who appreciate intelligent, witty, and sophisticated fiction, "Old Filth" is a masterfully crafted novel that will leave a lasting impact. Jane Gardam's storytelling prowess shines through, making this novel a must-read for those seeking a rich and immersive literary experience. -- Starry Ferry Books

From Publishers Weekly

British novelist Gardam has twice won the Whitbread and was shortlisted for the Man Booker. This, her 15th novel, was shortlisted 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.(June) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

This mordantly funny novel examines the life of Sir Edward Feathers, a desiccated barrister known to colleagues and friends as Old Filth (the nickname stands for "Failed in London Try Hong Kong"). After a lucrative career in Asia, Filth settles into retirement in Dorset. With anatomical precision, Gardam reveals that, contrary to appearances, Sir Edward's life is seething with incident: a "raj orphan," whose mother died when he was born and whose father took no notice of him, he was shipped from Malaysia to Wales (cheaper than England) and entrusted to a foster mother who was cruel to him. What happened in the years before he settled into school, and was casually adopted by his best friend's kindly English country family, haunts, corrodes, and quickens Filth's heart; Gardam's prose is so economical that no moment she describes is either gratuitous or wasted. Copyright © 2006The New Yorker

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Anglophile readers wondering who their next favorite British writer will be need look no further than Gardam, who, despite having won numerous literary awards and been short-listed for the Booker Prize, is not nearly as well known in the U.S. as she deserves. The title of this, her twelfth novel, seems to promise that satiric bite British authors do so well, but although there's plenty of sharp humor here, the book has many other moods. Sir Edward Feathers--called Filth (even by his wife, Betty) for "Failed in London Try Hong Kong"--is now retired and living in Dorset after a distinguished career as a barrister in the Far East. Betty's sudden death sends him on both a real and an imagined journey to rediscover his past as a "Raj orphan" born in Malaya but shipped back home early and brought to manhood at the hands of a variety of surrogate parents and guides, some good, some bad. For everything else Gardam's richly layered story and acute observation provide, this is finally a portrait of old age, offered with unflinching realism but also deep compassion. Mary Ellen QuinnCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2005 ORANGE PRIZE Praise for Old Filth"Excellent and compulsively readable...Old Filth belongs in the Dickensian pantheon of memorable characters."The New York Times Book Review 

"[Old Filth] 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."The Washington Post

"Gardam is an exquisite storyteller, picking up threads, laying them down, returning to them and giving them new meaning...Old Filthis sad, funny, beautiful and haunting."The Seattle Times 

"A masterpiece of storytelling."The Dallas Morning News 

"Jane Gardam's beautiful, vivid, defiantly funny novel is a must."The Times Praise for Jane Gardam

"[Gardam] is a brilliant writer. Her prose sparkles with wit, compassion and humor."—The Washington Post

"[Gardam] is the best kind of literary escape: serious, mesmerizing, and deeply satisfying."—Los Angeles Review of Books

"It's hard...not to be charmed by a writer with Gardam's substantial gifts."—The New York Times Book Review

"Gardam's prose is so economical that no moment she describes is either gratuitous or wasted."—The New Yorker

"Gardam is a unique and wonderful writer."—The Huffington Post 

About the Author

Jane Gardam has been twice awarded the Whitbread Prize and was also a Booker prize finalist. She is winner of the David Higham Prize, the Royal Society for Literature’s Winifred Holtby Prize, the Katherine Mansfield Prize, and the Silver Pen Award from PEN. Her novels includeGod on the Rocks, shortlisted for the Booker Prize;Old Filth, finalist for the Orange Prize;The Man in the Wooden Hat, finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; andLast Friends, finalist for the Folio Award. She lives in the south of England near the sea.In 1999 Jane Gardam was awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize in recognition of a distinguished literary career.

1 of 6