The People on Privilege Hill, Paperback Book
2.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


It is a wet day in Dorset, and walking to a luncheon party is Sir Edward Feathers QC, followed by two elderly friends: his scruffy neighbour and sparring partner, Veneering, and Fiscal-Smith, the meanest lawyer ever to make a fortune at the Bar.

Fans of Jane Gardam's bestselling novel, OLD FILTH, will be delighted to encounter Filth, now almost ninety, making his immaculate way to Privilege Hill, named perhaps for the Prive-Lieges who arrived with the Normans, but more probably for the village privies.

Ranging from a Victorian mansion converted into a home for unmarried mothers to a wartime hospital in the middle of the Blitz, from ghost stories to brilliant observations of love and loneliness in their various manifestations - including, in 'Pangbourne', a woman who falls in love with a gorilla - to reflections on the haphazard nature of intellect and memories in 'The Last Reunion', the stories in this collection mix Jane Gardam's trademark sardonic wit with a delicate tenderness and a touch of the surreal.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Short stories
  • ISBN: 9780349118451

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For fans of Jane Gardam’s “Old Filth” novels, the title story in this collection is everything you might hope it could be. Indeed, this short story might just as easily have been a chapter in one of the novels. Here you will find Sir Edward Feathers (‘Old Filth’ himself), his nemesis Veneering, the ever tight-fisted Fiscal-Smith, and the well-meaning but simple Dulcie. They are all well into their anecdotage, gathering at Dulcie’s with numerous others to send off a young priest of Dulcie’s acquaintance, Father Ambrose, on his way to St Umbrage’s on the isle of Skelt. The badinage is perfectly pitched, the possibilities for farce are rife, and Gardam carries it off without a hitch. Thoroughly delightful.The downfall, if there is one, is that the title story rather sets all of the others collected here in the shade. Indeed, you might be forgiven for wondering whether they are even written by the same author. Most lack the verve of that first story. Almost all suffer from excessively thin characters. And some are sadly dependent on what in an earlier era might have been considered to be a twist ending. Not all suffer equally. The final story, “The Last Reunion,” is very rich and I rather enjoyed, “The Hair of the Dog.” And of course none of the others are so very disappointing, though they all tend towards a curiously English conception of the short story and are limited thereby. So, gently recommended for those few gems and especially the “Old Filth” title story. Otherwise not.

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