One of my all time favorite books combining many elements I like in a book -- historical, fiction, travel, bit of suspense, and a classic. This is my...moreOne of my all time favorite books combining many elements I like in a book -- historical, fiction, travel, bit of suspense, and a classic. This is my third reading but spread over almost 50 years. (less)
Possibly enjoyed the second reading more than the first time: read it in the proper order and took detailed notes to keep track of Gardam's subtle iro...morePossibly enjoyed the second reading more than the first time: read it in the proper order and took detailed notes to keep track of Gardam's subtle ironies and plot points. Still agree with the original review and copying the first sentence here: Loved this quiet novel dealing with love, commitment, family, adversaries, secrets, need, convenience and regrets while following a couple from their engagement in 1950s Hong-Kong through the next half century.
Detailed notes could be considered a spoiler so read at your own peril: (view spoiler)[SPOILER ALERT -- reading the following will give away the whole plot as it details what happened when from beginning to end.
Chapters by continuing numbers though book is divided into five parts: PART ONE: THE MARRIAGE 15- Donheads – where they retired, description of house, area. 17-dwarf in big hat mentioned 18 - 50 years previous, young English girl in Hong Kong @Heathrow Eddie accompanied by Albert; 21- Terry Veneering intro; 25 - traveling to HK, Eddied (Filth) tells Albert about Betty McIntosh; 29- Albert says Eddie's fertility may be in question (due to venereal disease suffered and mentioned in Old Filth; 30- Betty says YES, her friend is Isobel (cousin of Filth's best school friend, and Filth's one-time paramour, though she is now gay); 31- Betty's friend Amy is missionary, mother of many, husband is preacher-missionary 35- "Never leave me," Filth's request of Betty 40- Judge "Pasty Willy" is Betty's god-father "uncle" 41- Betty meets Veneering "one hour too late" as she feels great passion for him, yet as just become engaged to Filth. She mets Veneering's son, Harry, age 9, w/whom she immediately develops an attachment 47- Eddie tells her "Please live forever" She's 28, hears of plane crash, in panic because she thinks Harry was on the plane, which he missed. Terry sends car for her, evening date, day after her engagement 52- She buys new dress, gets hair done, goes to meet Veneering 58- She sleeps w/V, glorious yet guilty, calls Amy, goes w/her on health visits, tells Amy she did it for "glorious memory" (61) 64- Albert & driver pick her up for formal dinner, drive to where she had met V, tells her to be true to Eddie, Albert owns the place, had found her passport which she had left behin. 71- Eddie ready to get married, Betty glad she has a "past", 72-mention of Fiscal-Smith, who accidentally becomes best man 74- Spends night at Amy's talf of wedding dress, Mrs. Baxter, old lady who lives w/Amy.
PART TWO - HAPPINESS 81- Eddied as widower thinks back on wedding day; 85- Fiscal-Smith as best man when Albert is no show 88- Honeymoon letters by Betty - 1st to Lizzie mentioning Enigma Years@ Bletchly Park, currently in Bhutan, 2nd to Amy (92) says she wants 10 children, find throne chair she loves (in Malta? and in which she later hears tragic news that Harry has died), moment she decides she loves Eddie when he buys it for her to be shipped to England (95); 3rd postcard to Mrs. Baxter found unposted 50 years later in the cushion of chair; 4th to Uncle Willy 101- Picnic on cliffs in Malta; Eddie admits he killed (evil foster mother, by accident), Betty pooh-poohs the idea. (In Last Friends, Malta cliff later visited by Veneering who punches guide that intimate that Betty may have had an affair. V breaks his ankle and dies shortly thereafter.) 104- Homecoming to Eddie's London apt., messy w/rats 107- Not exactly?? 108- Betty makes the apt. "home" - meets neighbors, deals w/stuff
PART THREE - LIFE 117- redecorating, 120- she's pregnant? 121- YES! (by Veneering or Filth though?) 123- Miscarriage at 4 months 127- 10 years later, runs into Veneering 133- Depressed. Amy takes charge, calls Dr., possibility of cancer 138- London for surgery, Veneering calls, Harry in hospital in London, surgery for possible leg amputation 147- Harry's surgery, cancer? bone issues - Betty is there with him 149- Betty has hysterectomy, pre-cancer, recovery, Veneering sends pearls 158- Betty goes to isolated cabin in Donheads (property where they later retire), finds solace in gardening 163- Time to go home, Filth finds her
PART FOUR: LIFE AFTER DEATH 169- Now 20 years in Hong Kong, Filth almost 70, should they retire to England? 177- In England visiting Pasty Willy & wife, Dulcie, Fiscal-Smith & daughter of Willy & Dulcie, (sullen) Susan, also there. Later a funeral for Willy, Harry Veneering is there. She loves him like a son. Willy and Dulcie live in Donheads. 188- They buy house (p158) which has been modernized, retire, Betty starts gardening; Filth accepts a case in The Hague with Veneering, urges Betty to come too. 193- She goes, orders lots of tulips to be delivered in Oct. (death looming, as we already know she dies in the fall while planting tulips). In museum area she sees carving of man w/hat. Simultaneously hears argument between Veneering and his wife, Elsie. He comes back w/out her, looking small, seedy. Veneering says carving makes him think of dwarf, Albert. He asks her to leave Filth and come with him. She says never. Veneering says he will stay too, never forget each other. 197- Filth watches Betty garden, Regrets that she doesn't discuss anything with him. Handover in Hong Kong (1997?) 202- Filth want to revise wills w/ appt. in London in Nov. Call from Veneering - similar to beginning of 1st book, announces Harry has died.
PART FIVE: PEACE 213- Three years later, Veneering moves in next door. By accident? 222- Veneering gong on a cruise. Filth admits he was w/Isobel while Vetty was w/Veneering after engagement. Asks if Veneering or Filth was father of child --see chap16. ThinksHarry was only one Betty truly loved. 227- Veneering dies after injury on cruise; 230- Filth leaves for Malaysia, new people have put B&B in Veneering's house. 231- Filth dies after plane arrives in Malaysia. Albert comes to memorial service with watch, gives hat to Amy's family. [Thought Albert had previously died??] (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)