Last Friends

Jane Gardam. Europa, $18 (208p) ISBN 978-1-60945-093-9
Completing the trilogy begun by Old Filth and The Man in the Wooden Hat, Gardam's impeccable finale revisits the triad of Edward "Old Filth" Feathers; his wife, Betty; and his rival (and Betty's lover), Terry Veneering. Although this third installation is ostensibly about Veneering, it is just as much about the minor characters these three have left in their wake. The novel begins at Old Filth's memorial service as Dulcie, widow of Judge William Willy, and Fred Fiscal-Smith, the perpetual hanger-on, share hazy reminiscences of their departed friends. As the two witness the last traces of the British Empire fade away, Gardam juxtaposes scenes from Veneering's impoverished childhood, describing the pains he took in order to escape class restrictions and become a respected lawyer. Though familiarity with the prior two installments of the trilogy is not necessary, readers entering the story at this late entry will miss much of the richness and depth of Gardam's narrative. They see themselves moving out of sync with the world around them, as one of the numerous geriatrics who populate this novel muses "Perhaps fiction was a mistake, it has rather fizzled out." But here Gardam proves that, even in its twilight, there is still life in the traditional English novel. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/08/2013
Release date: 04/02/2013
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