Last Friends | Jane Gardam


Unlike the previous "Old Filth" books, this last installment seemed more haphazard and confusing on a sentence-to-sentence level. Several times in dialogue, characters will speak twice in a row without any indication. It's (at least to me) unclear whether this was intentional, maybe as a structural manifestation of the haziness of old age...?

As an Asian reader, I haven't had many problems with the politically sensitive portrayal of Asia as seen through the eyes of Gardam's Empire descendants. But in "Last Friends", the character of Elsie ("the most beautiful woman in Hong Kong") is left surprisingly exoticized and underdeveloped. This was a disappointing exception in a phenomenally well-rounded cast of characters.

But my goodness, what a trilogy! Gardam has completely mastered literary form, moving seamlessly between third person narration and free indirect speech, between prose and screenplay, and most impressively between internal psychological monologues and various indifferent outsider perspectives. An Austen of our time.