tells the story of Sir Edward Feathers, variously known as Eddie, The Judge, Fevvers, Master of the Inner Temple and Teddy. Not a dirty old man, he is ‘œspectacularly clean. You might say ostentatiously clean.’ Filth is his nickname standing for Failed In London Try Hong Kong. He was born in what was then Malaya and sent home to England as a small child of five. The story goes backwards and forwards in time telling of his childhood at boarding school, then after Oxford he became a barrister and eventually a Judge on the circuit in Hong Kong. The book starts with Old Filth aged 80 living on his own in Dorset after the death of his wife, Betty. His near neighbour is Terry Veneering, also a retired lawyer he had known and detested in Hong Kong. He and Terry end up unexpectedly spending Christmas together. I was hooked straight away and read on eagerly.
As Filth begins to look back on his life, he becomes anxious to contact old friends and relations and as he contacts these people the story of his life emerges. He relives their times together, tries to make amends and sees events in a new light. There are many surprises before Filth comes to terms with his life and widowhood. It’™s a gentle book, full of humour and heartbreak.
The Photograph was the first book I read this year and I raced through it eager to find out why Kath was holding hands with a man who wasn’™t her husband, Glyn. After her death, Glyn comes across a photograph inside an envelope on which Kath had written DON’™T OPEN ‘“ DESTROY. It had been taken many years and on close inspection Glyn realises the man is his brother-in-law, Nick.
Glyn, a TV history researcher, infuriated by the photograph and the discovery of her involvement with Nick sets out to discover more. He becomes obsessed with his search as it becomes obvious how little he knew about Kath and her life.
I have always found Penelope Lively’™s books full of interest, easily readable, peopled with believable characters and this one is one of her best. It’™s about relationships, love and fidelity, grief and loss and the power of memory, all topics that for me made this book compelling reading.
Two excellent books.
I’™ve never ever had any inclination to read Dante’™s Divine Comedy before, but I’™ve now ordered a copy from Amazon. This is because I have enrolled on a course called Dante’™s Florence. My initial interest was Florence not Dante. We have had some beautiful holidays in Italy; the last one (in 2000) was near Florence and then we only had one day in Florence itself. I loved Francesco da Mosto’™s TV series on Italy and have wanted to go back to see more of the country ‘“ in particular Florence and Venice. So when a friend said she was taking a course on Dante’™s Florence I jumped at the chance to find out more.
It was the first session yesterday and I really enjoyed it. This is the description of the course: ‘œStudying Dante could not be more divine! Experience the Florence of Dante’™s day, including the art and architecture and the poet’™s relationship with his native city as conveyed in his writings.’ My impression of Dante’™s Inferno was that it is long and difficult and this was reinforced when the tutor said that most people who read The Divine Comedy manage to read through Purgatory and Hell, but few reach Paradise. It’™s not necessary to read it for this course, but now I want to know more.
It’™s only a six week course and covers a lot of topics including Florentine art and architecture of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, Dante’™s relationship with Florence with reference to The Divine Comedy and La Vita Nuova, and his legacy in art and literature.
Dante’™s Florence was a much smaller city than today, but there are still some buildings from that period. I was pleased that I had visited some on our visit in 2000, in particular the Baptistry. This was built in the 11th and 12th centuries and Dante was baptised there in 1265. I remember sitting in the Baptistry, gazing with wonder and admiration at the magnificent ceiling decorations in its dome, and walking on the ancient mosaic floor. I have always been fascinated by mosaics, the intricate patterns and marvelled at their composition.
Dante loved learning, hunting and sport, was involved in the struggle for power between the Church and the State, and fought in the Battle of Campaldino in 1289. The great love of Dante’™s life was Beatrice Portinari, who he met when he was nine and she was eight. They never married. Dante and Beatrice by Henry Holiday shows him gazing at her as she passes by ignoring him.
I hope we will be looking at the Pre-Raphaelite paintings when the tutor discusses Dante’™s legacy to art, as one of my favourite paintings is Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Dante wrote La Vita Nuova in despair at Beatrice’™s death and we’™ll be studying that next week.