Robyn's Reviews > Old Filth

Old Filth by Jane Gardam
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's review
Dec 17, 2011

it was amazing

What a surprise! When I first looked at the cover, I wasn't immediately drawn. I guess it is hard to get excited by a book with the word "Filth" in the title. But now, I am a big Filth fan.

But within the first few pages, I was completely in love with this book. It has that British charm (think Muriel Spark) but shows the underbelly of a colonial society. It is about a group of Raj orphans in England. Never heard of the term "Raj orphans"? Neither had I. Raj orphans are children whose parents lived/worked in India or other parts of Asia, and the kids were "orphaned" with relatives or foster families back in England. At least for the characters in this book, this was less than ideal - and that is quite an understatement. This book provides snapshots of these children as they progress from an achingly lonely childhood to coming of age in the WW II era to coping with old age.

This book is also about dignity. When faced with the most trying circumstances, Old Filth - the protagonist - manages to carve-out an identity that allows him to survive his childhood and flourish in adulthood. And he manages to do this without being conscious of this process. This is a testament to Gardam's tremendous ability, as "Old Filth" would have sounded preachy in the hands of less skilled authors.

And finally, I loved the fact that much of this story was told from the viewpoint of a man in his 80's. I think so many books, just like other films and other forms of art, are youth-centric. Often people who are older are marginalized if mentioned at all. Old Filth is not a charming, old man. He is a complex person with real relations both in the past and present, and this is his story of trying to reconcile all the disparate parts of his life. I can't wait to read more of Jane Gardam's work.
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10/30/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Kristi Pier I am so glad you liked this book, I think it was one of my favorite books last year. I just loved the whole discussion around the raj orphans. After reading your review, I am reminded to go get another Jane Gardam the way, I did read the 2nd in this series, and did not like it as much, but it was still worth reading.

Robyn What period does the other book cover? I was trying to figure that out since Old Filth covers from birth to death.

Kristi Pier As I remember, it was more about their marriage and more detail about his wife. I did like it, I just liked the first best. I do want to read more of Gardam's writings. Any new stand out books? I have been knitting a bunch, so have been reading less quickly lately. It won't last long, am so missing books! Hey, have you read Hunger games? have gotten 3 reviews in the last week from friends, so got it today from my nephew.

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