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The People on Privilege Hill and Other Stories

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  471 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
Jane Gardam is a writer at the height of her powers, well-known for her caustic wit, free-wheeling imagination, love of humanity and wicked powers of observation - and for the hint of the bizarre and the surreal that she brings to her fiction. This is a collection of her short stories.
Paperback, 215 pages
Published July 3rd 2008 by Abacus Software (first published November 1st 2007)
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I first discovered Jane Gardam a few years ago when I read her subtle, completely brilliant, account of the life of English barrister Eddie Feathers, aka "Old Filth" ('failed in London, try Hong Kong'). Ms Gardam upped the ante late last year by publishing a companion volume, "The Man in the Wooden Hat", which retold, and deepened, the story of the Feathers marriage from the point of view of his wife Betty.

Old Filth and his nemesis Veneering make a cameo appearance in the first story in this awe
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Jane Gardam's writing - it is spare, elegant and full of insight into the quirks of human nature. This is a book of short stories and what a wonderful collection they are.

The first, which gives the book its title, is about Edward Feathers (Old Filth) and his acquaintances. There are ghost stories, compassionate stories of old and lonely people, and one set in London in the middle of the Blitz.

My runaway favourite is about a woman who is tempted into a one night stand up in the Lake Dist
Description: Jane Gardam's delightful short stories range from the Lake District to Dorset; from Wimbledon, where an old Victorian mansion has been converted into a home for unmarried mothers, to wartime London, where a hospital is the scene of a job interview in the middle of the Blitz. In 'Pangbourne' (not, in this instance, the place, but the name of an ape), a lonely woman allows herself tenderly to fall in love with a gorilla; 'Snap' is about a loveless one-night stand - and its ironic puni ...more
William Koon
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I pause to give thanks to those who have guided me along the way. One was ex-student Charlie who right after he was expelled brought by a copy of “Cat’s Cradle,” and said, “I think you will enjoy Vonnegut. I did –and do. Another was Nicole who introduced me to Jane Gardam. Along the way I got to know one of the more remarkable characters (and his environs) in contemporary fiction, Gardam’s “Old Filth.”

Now, here is a wonderful selection of her stories, the first of which finds us back with “Old
Lady Drinkwell
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved everything single one of these magical, moving or twist in the tale stories. Just a delight!
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are quite different from her trilogy on Edward Feathers, Old Filth and his bunch. IMHO, 4 stars is a generous rating for this short story group. But do take that with a grain of salt because I am not a fan of short stories- yet I love novellas. Despite that, even in such tiny crisp exercises, the characterizations are excellent.

Regardless, Jane Gardam tackles some social issues here in context of the 1960's and 1970's that are done in present tense narrative BUT, IMHO, would be highly "sus
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The People on Privilege Hill contains stories, short and quick and with adult emotions. Gardam has a laser-eye, and can have a razor-tongue, but she knows what humans are and what makes a story.

In “The Fledgling," we are introduced to that self-conscious teen ready to leave the nest, and the mixed emotions of parent and child are recognizable and painful and funny at the same time. In “Dangers” we encounter a story reminiscent of the UK’s BBC radio show My Word, where segments often feature a fu
Paul Fulcher
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Some nice colour, particularly of Wimbledon of a certain vintage, and as someone who lives there I can see the transformation of the area she describes.

But many of the stories seemed more like observation pieces and didn't really go anywhere.

Much weaker for my taste that the Old Filth novels.
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful collection especially the first story which I really enjoyed. Gardam can be funny, wry, so intuitive. Her prose is lovely, her characters very endearing and beautifully written and I love the way she can integrate the everyday into such amazing tales...
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful collection of short stories by the impeccable Jane Gardam.
Jennifer Shepard
3.5, not Gardam's strongest stories, though I did, as always, enjoy spending the time with her writing.
May 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What makes gems interesting? There is the initial impression-sparkle maybe, or color. But when you really look into one of the magical stones --diamonds, rubies, emeralds -- you see more depth, more color and sometimes more brilliance. You have to keep on looking - a casual glance won't do - to appreciate the result. Precisely the reason reviewers use "gem" to describe some writing.

It is hard to speak too highly of Jane Gardam. This collection of short stories does a lovely job of demonstrating
Aug 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane Gardam started having her writings published when she was in her 40s. Now in her mid-80s, she is still writing and publishing. She seems to like writing books and stories about older people, people who have seen something of life, have fears and insecurities brought on by disappointments and failures. As do we all. The glass is not really half full anymore, but life is not yet over and there be some living yet to do. She has the most acute eye in her story telling and characters. This book ...more
c 2008 [[some stories publ. 1996, 200, 2003]

Everything Gardam writes is good.
Novels I tend to like better than short stories, and with Gardam too, I like reading her novels best.

Each short story has a twist of some kind to it. A surprise, something unexpected or ironic. It makes me wonder if it wouldn't detract from the pleasure of reading the story a second time, but maybe not. Her characterizations are always brilliant, and it's always amazing how few words she needs to do them.

My favorite of
Jan 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simple, beautiful stories about middle class people of all ages and many eras in Britain.

Here's a passage from one of my favorites, "The Fledgeling," in which Lester is a self-centered teenager who has just repeatedly rejected his parents at an important moment. His mother narrates her response:

And she hated Lester. This Lester. She longed for the Lester who used to come in cheerful from school shouting, “Mum? I’m home, Mum. Can I go out now?” Or, “You in Mum? I’m top again.” Or, “Mum, where’s
Iolande Diamantis
Jul 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Elderly readers,
Recommended to Iolande by: My Best Friend.
Shelves: read-2012, fiction
My best friend lent me this book years ago and I only finally got around to reading it as a way to procrastinate through my exams. To be honest it's not something I would usually read by choice. Short stories are not my favourite type of fiction and the themes of these stories are not common place in my bookshelf.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. Whilst this is not my favourite book, I grew to adore all of the characters and their little idiosyncrasies. I really missed each character after t
Shonna Froebel
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I've loved Jane Gardam as a writer since I was first introduced to her at the age of sixteen, by a cousin I was visiting. This story collection is no exception.
I think her characters are all very realistic and I can connect to them easily. Here the title story has characters from her last novel, Old Filth, which was an unexpected delight.
The stories range wildly in situation, characters and setting, but all have a casual tone to them, a bit of the everyday even when something in the story change
May 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jane Gardam has become one of my favorite new authors. I loved Old Filth and The Man in the Wooden Hat, and this collection of short stories was just as wonderful. To bring to life such vivid characters and emotions within the confines of the short story parameters is truly a gift. Not a word is wasted but skillfully chosen to illuminate and clarify. Those who also love the Edward Feathers (Old Filth) character will be rewarded with a lovely continuation of his story in the first story, named af ...more
Griselda Heppel
Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The subtlety and depth of Jane Gardam's writing put her in a class of her own. I loved this book with its portrayal of decent, kind people finding themselves in situations beyond their control, and responding the best way they can. Events are described with such lightness of touch that the pain they cause comes through all the sharper, and the heroism of the bewildered protagonists all the more heartbreaking. All the short stories in this collection are fine but for me 'The Latter Days of Mr Jon ...more
Aug 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susann by: Maureen Corrigan - NPR's Fresh Air
She's been writing for decades, but Jane Gardam is my new favorite author. NPR's Maureen Corrigan uses the apt phrase "wit and weirdness" to describe this collection of short stories. Gardam's economical style and dry humor reminded me of Penelope Fitzgerald, conveying so much with so few words. Her warmth and quotidian details reminded me of Penelope Lively. I'm very eager to read her other novels and stories.
For Corrigan's review and for my favorite story of the collection (Pangbourne), click
Oct 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having adored the Old Filth series (three novels) I guess I'm spoiled. I expected to love these stories as well. I liked them, and in a few cases, found them hilarious or quite moving. But as a body of work this book didn't quite measure up to my standards for Ms. Gardam's writing. I hold her in such high esteem that perhaps I'm quite unreasonable to expect a home-run in each try. That said, if you are a fan of this author, read these for her wonderful sense of humor and sense of place. And if y ...more
Jan 17, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library_books
Not a bad collection - one story whose ending I didn't exactly "get", a couple that were just sort of "there", a couple that really stood out, and the rest pretty good. Nice, wide range of topics (plots) - from a ghost story to the effects of onsetting Alzheimer's.
I'm not a short story reader, but a fan of Gardam's writing. This collection makes a good introduction to her style for folks not willing to invest in starting a full novel by a new author.
Jerry Landry
May 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-reads
If I were to describe this short story collection in three words, they would be delightful, dark, and British. I love Gardam's writing style -- surreal and dark at times, yet overall very playful. My favorite stories in the collection were "The Latter Days of Mr. Jones" which broke my heart, "The Hair of the Dog" which kept me wondering, and "Snap" with its sense of irony. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes descriptive yet at times mysterious short stories.
Harini Srinivasan
From the back-of-the-book blurb, I thought this was going to be almost a sequel to Old Filth, which I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a collection of unrelated short stories. Only the first was about "Filth" Feathers. The stories are well written, funny and surprising, in a Muriel Sparkish way. But I could not overcome my disappointment and managed to get through only three. So back to the library it goes! I may give it a shot some other time.
Aug 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the books Molly chose for me for Christmas. I should have her choose about half my books. She's really good at picking books that are not my usual type, but that I love anyway.

This one was a series of extremely well written character sketches. Several had a little twist of irony at the end that reminded me of a short story I read a long time ago. Maybe "Roman Fever" by Edith Wharton?
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I became a fan of Jane Gardham after Old Filth and am now even more eager to read all of her work after this collectIon of stories. I read for characters and am immediately drawn in to first person narratives. This book is full of interesting characters. The stories are more comforting than challenging and there is no diversity, all the characters are British, but I found them charming. This is a "comfort" book for me.
Dec 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this collection of short stories, many characters are interesting and eccentric. (For example, one story focuses on a woman who falls in love with a gorilla at the zoo.) And, although in several instances, stories end with characters getting what they seem to deserve (either positive or negative), the stories weren't predictable to me.

May 11, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
My love for Gardam's novel Old Filth knows no bounds but her short story collection (much awarded and praised) left me cold. Other than the first, featuring familiar figures from her Filth trilogy, these stories seemed rote, almost cliched in their endings. Of course, Gardam can still leave one breathless with a perfect expression or lasting description but I am sorely disappointed with these.
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I normally don't like a collection of short stories, but being Jane Gardam is such a fabulous writer, I had to pick this up at the library. The first story involves Old Filth, which is fabulous, and there are some absolutely lovely stories in here. A couple were meh, but for the most part, they were great.
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my all time favourite authors. Wonderful. Collection of witty, thoughtful, eccentric short stories. Character development extraordinaire. Including old friend Old Filth
Such perfect endings, always...

The Latter Days of Mr Jones
Flight Path
The Hair of the Dog ❤❤LOVE Gideon:)
Dangers (autobiographical??)
The Fledgling (Perfect for Robin)
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Jane Gardam 4 10 May 26, 2013 06:57PM  
  • Starting Over: Stories
  • Chalcot Crescent
  • La rêveuse d'Ostende
  • A Much Married Man
  • Complete Short Stories
  • Various Miracles
  • The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain, 1918-39
  • Inheritance: The Story of Knole and the Sackvilles
  • Cowboys and East Indians
  • Do Not Deny Me
  • The Bigness of the World
  • The Season: A Summer Whirl Through the English Social Season
  • This Close
  • Vanishing and Other Stories
  • The Echoing Grove
  • The Prank: The Best of Young Chekhov
  • Limassol
  • Malice in the Highlands (Erskine Powell, #1)
Jane Mary Gardam OBE is a British author of children's and adult fiction. She also reviews for the Spectator and the Telegraph, and writes for BBC radio. She lives in Kent, Wimbledon and Yorkshire. She has won numerous literary awards including the Whitbread Award, twice. She is mother of Tim Gardam, Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford. Jane has been awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for ...more
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