Review 1751: Last Friends

This final novel in the Old Filth trilogy gives us the last pieces in the puzzle of the complex relationships described in the first two books. It tells of the origins of Terry Veneering, the lifelong rival of Edward Feathers (known as Old Filth) who finally became a friend.

Last Friends begins in the same place as Old Filth, with the memorial service for Edward Feathers. Much of this novel is presented through the eyes of two minor characters in the trilogy, Dulcie and Fiscal-Smith. Veneering is a mysterious figure in the other two books of the trilogy, his origins unknown but subject to many rumors. It turns out that Fiscal-Smith has known him from boyhood in a northern manufacturing town, the son of a schoolgirl and a Russian dancer rumored to be a gentleman, who was badly injured as a young man and had to be supported by his wife.

This final tale is enthralling and brings a fitting ending to this great trilogy.

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Review 1742: The Man in the Wooden Hat

The Man in the Wooden Hat is the second novel in the Old Filth trilogy. Old Filth examines the entirety of the life of its main character, Edward Feathers, while this novel takes a closer look at his marriage with Betty. As with Old Filth, The Man in the Wooden Hat appears to be straightforward, but there is a kick at the end.

At the beginning of the novel, Eddie has sent a letter containing a marriage proposal to Betty, who is vacationing in Hong Kong while Eddie has been working in London. Betty accepts his proposal when he arrives in Hong Kong, where he makes only one condition, that Betty never leave him.

Only hours later, Betty meets Eddie’s rival, Terry Veneering, and falls immediately in love with him, although he is married with a son, Harry. She also falls in love with nine-year-old Harry. She is determined to marry Eddie; however, she spends a night with Terry before the wedding. Unfortunately, he leases a house for their rendezvous from Albert Ross, Eddie’s best friend, a Eurasian dwarf. Ross finds her purse there. He does not tell Eddie but returns the purse to Betty and tells him she must never leave Eddie. He knows of all the loss in Eddie’s life.

So begins their marriage. I did not dislike Betty despite her infidelity; in fact, I liked her, although it’s hard to decide what to think about Veneering. The novel follows the entirety of their marriage, which is reticent and notable for Eddie’s absences for work. Betty, who was born in China and subject as a child to detention by the Japanese, finds she cannot have children.

It’s hard to explain how this sort of everyday novel can be so absorbing. We think we know everything about the Featherses. But Gardam tilts everything slightly in the final chapter.

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Review 1731: Old Filth

Best of Ten!

From his birth and continuing through his adolescence, Edward Feathers was abandoned or taken away from every person he loved. As an adult, he was a still, stiff man unable to love.

After the death of his wife, Betty, Sir Edward, or Old Filth as he is known in the world of law where he is a prominent lawyer, begins re-examining the events of his past. He also makes attempts to connect with people important to him, but these attempts are abortive. Slowly, all the things he has never spoken of are revealed.

Written in sterling prose, Old Filth is a mesmerizing story about the Raj Orphans, children who were shipped to England at an early age from the Far East. The novel is touching and completely gripping. And for those who loved it like I did, hooray! It’s the first of a trilogy.

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