FILTH is a lawyer with a practice in the Far East. A few remember that his nickname stands for Failed In London Try Hong Kong. But Old Filth is not as pompous as people imagine, and his past contains many secrets and dark hiding places.
Meet Edward Feathers, also known as Sir Edward, Teddy, Fevvers, or Old Filth. Filth is an acronym nickname that stands for Failed In London Try Hong Kong, to describe lawyers who weren’t successful in England and found easier success in the Far East. Now back in England, the death of his wife causes Edward to reexamine the events and people of his childhood and how they shaped him.
Old Filth, composed and wealthy, initially appears to have had a soft life. As Gardam explores his past, the reader sees instead a painful childhood that teaches him toughness, a life of hard luck and tragedy that reveals a surprisingly complex and fascinating character, and a grown man struggling to understand his own identity. The author weaves in and out of time and space and changes perspectives, a style that is both riveting and calls for a deft narrator.
Graeme Malcolm and his posh British accent bring Old Filth to life, complete with his occasional stammer. A prolific and versatile narrator, Malcolm has performed everything from children’s books (Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux) to a John Lennon biography. He shifts easily among locations and perspectives, and captures Old Filth’s bewilderment, as a person who never quite fits in his place or time, with poignancy and humor.
Jane Gardam, a venerated author who has won the Whitbread Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, completely captures a world gone by, when men still changed their shirts before dinner and England was an empire. Inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s life as a “Raj Orphan” a British citizen born in the Empire, raised by surrogate parents, then torn from his loved ones to be schooled in England Gardam explores themes of love, loss, home, and family with crisp yet moving prose. The more emotional scenes are told without heavy-handed sentimentality and are all the more effective and haunting for it.
Old Filth is a must-listen for Anglophiles, listeners who enjoy memorable characters, and a perfect choice for book clubs. (Check out a companion book, The Man in the Wooden Hat, also performed by Malcolm, that tells Filth’s wife’s story.) Jane Gardam and Graeme Malcolm combine their talents for an exquisite listen. Julie MacDonald
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