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Last Orders (1996)

by Graham Swift

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,496404,363 (3.59)206
In England three working-class buddies, united by pub-drinking and World War II experiences, drive the ashes of the fourth to the sea. In the process emerge the lives of four families and the reason no wife came. By the author of Ever after.
  1. 00
    Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray (celerydog)
    celerydog: A bunch of teen boys kidnap their friend Ross's ashes and take 'him' to Ross. Fun road trip, amazing insights via highly believable characters. Outstanding.
  2. 00
    Old Filth by Jane Gardam (chrisharpe)
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» See also 206 mentions

English (38)  Hebrew (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
LAST ORDERS, by Graham Swift. This one's been sitting on my shelf for several years. Won the Booker Prize. Just read about 150 pages of it - set in the late 80s, it's about three old London geezers, and one younger one, on their way to an English beach to scatter the ashes of one of their old pals. Along the way, you learn something of their history, about their years in the army & navy during WWII. (The younger one did five years with the Foreign Legion.) There are some unpleasant connections, revelations of infidelity, etc. Blah blah ... Along the way, they snipe at each other and do some drinking. The narrative moves at a glacial pace. Not sure if I'll finish it. Stay tuned.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Mar 25, 2021 |
I'm reading all the Booker winners for the 50th anniversary of the prize. Follow me at www.methodtohermadness.com

“Last orders” means “last call” in British slang. In Graham Swift’s novel, it also means “final wishes.” Jack the butcher has just died, on the cusp of retiring to the seaside with his wife Amy. Three of Jack’s friends are driven by his adopted son to the town he meant to retire in, to scatter his ashes. But why isn’t Amy coming?

It seems a simple enough premise for a road trip, but echoing The Remains of the Day and Holiday, two other Booker winners that also feature British trips to the sea, even a one-day outing leaves a lot of room for detours and discoveries.

I had a hard time getting “into” this book because of the plethora of characters: all five men (Jack and the four living) have wives, children, officially and unofficially adopted children, and sometimes ex-wives and lovers. Keeping them all straight, as the point of view changed from chapter to chapter, was challenging. I’d recommend making a chart, honestly.

But once I got “into” it, I’m glad I did. Here’s Ray’s observation on his best friend Jack’s final days:

“…he was sitting up, straight and steady. I thought, It’s like he’s having his portrait done, his last portrait, no flattering, no prettying, and no one knows how long it will take. Two weeks, three. Nothing to do but sit still and be who you are.”

This is just one of many reflections on life, love, family, loyalty, and friendship that make this short novel so dense, reminding us always to be who we are.
( )
  stephkaye | Dec 14, 2020 |
At first blush, you might think this was a book ripping off Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, and it's not an unfair comparison. What Graham Swift does, however, is examine the strictures of working-class Britain and the culture of homosocial relations among British working-class men, particularly among men who fought in World War II and are building a civilian life together. The book's title is itself a play on words, with last orders standing in for last rites and the last order at the pub simultaneously. I also think it happens to read a bit more fluidly than Faulkner, so you might want to give this a try, even if (especially if) you did not care for As I Lay Dying. This is interesting and engaging without being too dense. I am definitely going to give more of Swift's work a read. ( )
  DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
Wonderful book. Absorbing. Totally English. Very visual. ( )
  nick4998 | Oct 31, 2020 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Sep 2010):
- The novel was awarded the Man Booker Prize for 1996.. It was Graham Swift's sixth novel.
- This story of solemn duty, sprinkled well with farce and painful memories, takes the reader along for a day drive from London to the seaside town of Margate. Four men (or maybe 'blokes' is better), all pub friends of the just-deceased Jack Arthur Dobbs, are faithfully delivering Jack's ashes to the sea as per Jack's last "orders".
- The main narrative takes the men from their Bermondsey pub rendezvous (a bit of lubrication for the trip) onto the roadway and grudgingly, sometimes comically and sometimes contentiously, seaward. Interspersed, however, are enlightening chapters, which shift in narration between the players, who also notably include the absent widow, Amy Dobbs. Each participant in Jack's final act has a memory of regret, deception and/or resentfulness to dredge up.. Their interconnected lives contain secrets, some too late to unearth and others inching their way to the surface.
- Amy's lifelong disappointment in Jack's refusal to perform a simple ritual of respect, and Ray's guilt over both financial and personal misdoings are convincingly told. Animosity between Vince and Lenny erupts into huffing and chuffing, and this scene of flailing about is excellently written.
- Swift's writing has a natural, casual feel in this novel. There is plenty to think of here: dishonest dealings among family and friends; responsibilities toward the severely disabled; the uneasiness of men with their emotions; what defines family?, and so on. Highly enjoyable.. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Mar 25, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Swift, Grahamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Häilä, Arto(KÄÄnt.)secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
But man is a Noble Animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave.

Sir Thomas Browne: Urn Burial
I do like to be beside the seaside.

John A. Glover-Kind
Dedication
For Al
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It aint like your regular sort of day.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In England three working-class buddies, united by pub-drinking and World War II experiences, drive the ashes of the fourth to the sea. In the process emerge the lives of four families and the reason no wife came. By the author of Ever after.

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HighBridge Audio

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.

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HighBridge

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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