Award-winning British author Gardam completes her superb Old Filth trilogy—Old Filth (2004) and The Man in the Wooden Hat (2009)—with Sir Terence Veneering’s story.
This third—and final—book about a love triangle involving two bitter rivals is exquisitely expressive. When Sir Terence and Sir Edward die within months of each other, only a few people at their memorial services can personally recall the details of the venerable yet tumultuous lives they led. But old Dulcie, widow of judge William Willy, and Sir Frederick Fiscal-Smith, perennial houseguest of the upper class, share fleeting recollections of earlier lives through reminisces that are clouded with the haze of old age. The author’s two previous books focused on the stories of Sir Edward “Old Filth” Feathers and his wife, Betty. Gardam completes the trilogy by telling bits and pieces of Sir Terry Veneering’s rise from an impoverished childhood to a life of distinction. Terry, born the son of Florrie, a coal vendor, and Russian-born Anton, a former acrobat and dancer whose career is cut short when he suffers an injury, is an intelligent youngster with an affinity for languages and a love of the sea. While roaming the beach one day, he meets a lawyer who helps him further his education. A fortuitous last-minute decision and some devastating news sends Terry to Ampleforth College and subsequently to sharing top honors on the bar exam finals with Sir Edward. Their rivalry, fired when they represent opposing sides in court and fueled by Sir Terry’s love of Betty, endures until the twilight of their lives. Those who’ve read the first two books in the series will no doubt relish the opportunity to gain insight into the life of the third key player in the love story, but they’ll also feel deeply moved by Dulcie and Fiscal-Smith, two relics of the old guard who recall a time in England when one’s class restrictions were difficult to circumvent and surnames were of ultimate importance—regardless of accomplishments or financial circumstances.