I read this book eons ago, and all of the positive reviews are absolutely right. I can't fairly review it now without digging out my copy and rWARNING
I read this book eons ago, and all of the positive reviews are absolutely right. I can't fairly review it now without digging out my copy and refreshing my memory. As I am too lazy to do that, let me instead act as a warning.
If you read Battle Cry of Freedom, you may end up filling shelves with Civil War topics (and post Civil War, then backwards to the Revolution), and deplete your savings account along the way, to the point were you eventually have to put bookshelves in the garage. You may stun your brain and overwhelm your memory by reading all three volumes of Shelby Foote's [largely military] history of the war to the point where you may not be able to distinguish between the Wilderness and Vicksburg. It could happen! You may develop a personal list of heroes and villains within the context of the war and its aftermath, and buying small busts to sit on the edge your desk.[I haven't gone that far, but, full disclosure, I have thought about it.] There is the social danger in noticing the reverberations of the CW in modern America, and when you do notice, murmur inappropriate comments that mystify your companions (that happened to me at the South Caroline capitol building). You could find yourself doing that old 'compare and contrast' thing when looking at the politics of the time and the current election cycles. You could try to read the Dred Scott decision by Chief Justice Taney and not quite get over the fact that he was the fellow who swore in Abe Lincoln for his second term. There is the distinct danger that you will begin to really think about the purpose of government in a republic, and whether we would still be a federally based nation if Abe Lincoln had not lived and, nearly as importantly, died. You may end up wondering about the real reasons the country was so slow to allow genuine integration of African Americans and (with less fanfare) immigrants, Catholics, and a host of people who weren't quite like "us". Heavens, you could sink to the point of wondering if the suspension of basic civil rights (habeas corpus for example) can ever, in a practical world, be justified. That could take you to the nature of leadership (political and military), and if you get that far, you are sunk.
So be careful. This is a wonderfully written volume that could be the first puff of an addiction to the dope of history....more
The hero, Eddie Feathers, is a retired judge who focused his life on Asia but nonetheless rose to near the top of the English bar. Handsome,Marvelous.
The hero, Eddie Feathers, is a retired judge who focused his life on Asia but nonetheless rose to near the top of the English bar. Handsome, beautifully turned out, he appears a thorough gentleman and, to the most of his professional contemporaries, has had a successful if otherwise unremarkable life. He is married to Betty, a pleasant slightly overstuffed matron, equally as unremarkable. Of course, they are wrong.
Gardam, with understated, superb control and language, has woven the complex tale of Eddie's life perfectly. We come to learn through a slightly uneven (but effective) chronology that Eddie's life has been full of desires both achieved and missed, and more than one horror. The contained, well behaved resolution of his life masks his fears, his needs, his moments of extraordinary bravery and his missteps, the choices of loyalty and disloyalty. His early loves mature into complex understandings. His marriage is complex. Gardam says clearly we are what life and character have made of us, but she does it so well, with such grace and control, that the reader is entranced. It is everything you can ask of a novel. Language, wit, plot, intelligence, depth, accessibility, all beautifully done. Eddie Feathers is not perfect but this book is.
Gardam apparently thought she was finished with Eddie with Old Filth but a few years later produced The Man in Wooden Hat which tells the same story from wife Betty's point of view. If Old Filth is about the private, subtle and unsubtle forces that shape our lives, Wooden Hat is about love and its complexities, passion (and not just romantic passion) as it plays out over a life with its twists and compromises.
Gardam captures, in both novels, a truth of what living entails that resonates. You'll find yourself enthusiastically recommending the books to every reader you know.