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Category Archive for 'Hong Kong'

This third book of an unforgettable trilogy continues the story of Sir Edward Feathers, a “Raj-orphan” born in Malaya, unloved by his parents. Sent alone at age six to be schooled in England, he eventually began his adult career – and lived up to the adage, “Failed in London, Tried Hong Kong,” hence, his nickname, FILTH. In Hong Kong, he married Betty MacDonald, also a Raj orphan, and led an unexciting, though professionally distinguished, life as a judge representing the Crown and the Empire. The second novel, is Betty’s story, a story of her marriage to Filth, a man she respects but has never really loved, and the freedom she enjoys to pursue her own interests. Both novels are filled with hilarious moments, lively dialogue which clearly establishes the characters and their attitudes towards others, and memorable scenes in which they separately display their feelings about their lives in Hong Kong as representatives of the last days of the Empire. Last Friends, the third novel, is ostensibly the story of Sir Terence Veneering, a man of mysterious origins and the lifelong rival of Filth, rumored to have been Betty’s lover in Hong Kong. As the culmination of the trilogy, this novel reveals almost as much about Filth and Betty and their relationship with each other as it does about Veneering and their separate relationships with him. Gardam recreates a vibrant and rich background, filled with details presented through unique images and observations. Her control of her material and her insights into people and places infuse all of her novels, and with this trilogy, they hit their peak.

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Esteemed novelist Jane Gardam follows up on the success of Old Filth, her highly successful 2005 novel about the life of Sir Edward Feathers, with the companion story of Sir Edward’s wife, Betty. Each novel benefits from the other, and together they are a stunning study of a marriage–not ideal, but “workable.” Beginning with Old Filth allows the reader to set the story and see the marriage from the point of view of Sir Edward. That novel is sophisticated and subtle, much like Sir Edward himself, with a sly sense of humor which allows the reader to feel part of the scene. Betty, someone we really see for the first time in this novel, is also a product of the same time, place, and class. The sophisticated style of Old Filth, appropriate for a novel about Edward, yields in this novel to a more down-to-earth and overtly romantic style, more typical of Elisabeth, with coincidence and romantic intervention playing a part. The often hilarious (and ironic) dialogue combines with a wry satiric sense to produce a conclusion which is everything that such a novel deserves.

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