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The New Yorker: "Gardam's unassailable privacy."

Date: Nov 2 2009

In this understated novel, Gardam returns to the successful barrister and judge Sir Edward Feathers, the protagonist of her deliciously acerbic “Old Filth.” The complementary tale, told largely from the point of view of Feathers’s wife, Betty, a fellow-“Raj orphan,” begins as the two make “a prudent marriage not for love,” in Hong Kong after the Second World War. The story briskly follows their fifty-year union from adulterous beginnings and unhappy childlessness to a companionable old age in England, after the handover of Hong Kong. Haunting the entire marriage is an allegorical albatross (named, cutely, Albert Ross), a dwarfish Chinese solicitor whose eerie presence enforces the couple’s tremendous, and perhaps ill-considered, marriage vows. Like Gardam’s other novels, this work has satiric charm, but, just as the lovers never crack one another’s “unassailable privacy,” Gardam never lets the reader meaningfully trespass on their inner lives. ♦

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