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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Graham Swift - Last Orders
The vernacular is fantastic! A truly wonderful working-class novel, like Love on the Dole or Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, but much much more than that. It's a rumination on death, life, love, parenthood, childhood, work; in other words, the lives that all of us live, everday. I love the switch-and-cut narrative (as good as his Waterland), and, of course, most...
Published on 27 Feb. 2010 by RachelWalker

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Skilful but gloomy and slow
Last Orders has received the highest praise. The Guardian and TLS hailed it as Swift's finest book to date; it won the 1996 Booker Prize; it is included in the critic John Carey's list of the fifty most enjoyable books of the 20th century.

The novel concerns a car journey by a quartet of Londoners to carry out the last request of Jack Dodds: to have his ashes...
Published on 21 Jan. 2012 by Metropolitan Critic


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Graham Swift - Last Orders, 27 Feb. 2010
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Last Orders (Paperback)
The vernacular is fantastic! A truly wonderful working-class novel, like Love on the Dole or Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, but much much more than that. It's a rumination on death, life, love, parenthood, childhood, work; in other words, the lives that all of us live, everday. I love the switch-and-cut narrative (as good as his Waterland), and, of course, most especially the various narrative voices. The every-day man doesn't need elegies, he has the words and rhythms honed down through generations. It is a perfect, perfect example of how every-day speech can be powerful and beautiful. A wonderful novel, that leaves you at significant risk of being more than significantly moved!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Last Orders - Graham Swift, 5 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Last Orders (Paperback)
I really enjoyed Last Orders by Graham Swift. It's the story of a group of working men from London carrying out the last wishes of a London butcher Jack Dodds, who wants his ashes scattered from Margate pier. We are told the story from the points of view of four of his friends who carry out this last wish, and later from the viewpoint of his wife, Amy.

Last Orders is a clever title: "last orders" was the time last drinks could be bought in the days before unrestricted drinking was allowed in England, and these friendships are based around The Coach and Horses, an East London pub. The friends who carry out Jack's last orders also share jobs on an English high street - the dead man was a butcher, and one friend an undertaker - a nice ironic juxtaposition that is played out thematically in the novel. Other links include shared experiences of the desert war (39-45), and certain infidelities and romantic entanglements that add complexity and an edge of feeling to the relationships.

The story takes place in one day but the memories of the characters stretch across the second half of the twentieth century; they show the frustrations and failings of ordinary people, but also their loyalty and friendship. It's a book of great sadness, with comic interludes, and characters that are engaging and sympathetic, very real and human - full of frailty and weakness.

Swift captures the narrative voices of these characters in a series of short chapters. Don't look for a handy resolution, but enjoy the vibrant dialogue and the sense of lived experience.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Puzzle from Graham Swift, 3 Dec. 2002
By 
Philip Garwood (Tilbury, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Last Orders (Audio Cassette)
Last Orders is a novel that asks the reader to make sense of some of the puzzling actions of the main charactors. It is a story that is related through the consciousness of those main charactors and revolves around the 'last orders' of a Bermondsey butcher regarding the final disposal of his ashes.
Four of his old drinking and business pals accept the responsibility to scatter his ashes from the pier at Margate and the story spans their day from the start in 'The Coach and Horses' to the completion of their task.
His wife, who is also a key charactor in the novel, declines to join the party because she has her own pilgrimage to make to a hospital where their daughter has been a patient for many years. She says that the ashes are bing thrown from the wrong place, anyway.
For me, the secret to the novel, the final piece to the jig-saw puzzle, is understanding why the wife considers that the ashes are being thrown from the wrong place.
The book is full of colour and memories of South East London from war time to the present day, and has humorous and tragic portraits of the main charactors.
I recommend that it must be read at least twice. Only after the whole picture has been seen in the first reading is the full detail understood up in the second and subsequent readings.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than just a simple story, 7 Jun. 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Last Orders (Paperback)
This is more than just a simple tale of a group of friends taking their friend's ashes to the sea-side. I found it so poignant and moving that I could hardly bear to read the last scene. It's about the big issues in life and how chance can change your whole destiny. It's also about regret and lost opportunities, love and, obviously, death. Each character is beautifully drawn. Ray, the 'lucky' gambler is a 'litte ray of sunshine', Vic, the undertaker, the only one not afraid of death, is the 'Victor' - even the characters' names mean something. It's probably the sort of book you need to read more than once to fully appreciate, but it well deserved the Booker prize and I would recommend it to anyone (as long as you're not expecting to laugh!)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Skilful but gloomy and slow, 21 Jan. 2012
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This review is from: Last Orders (Paperback)
Last Orders has received the highest praise. The Guardian and TLS hailed it as Swift's finest book to date; it won the 1996 Booker Prize; it is included in the critic John Carey's list of the fifty most enjoyable books of the 20th century.

The novel concerns a car journey by a quartet of Londoners to carry out the last request of Jack Dodds: to have his ashes scattered into the sea from Margate pier. As the book progresses, the life stories of Jack and the four men are gradually revealed. The structure is rather complex, with seven different voices used, and alternations between the past and present.

You can see why it has attracted such praise. The prose is constructed with great care, the characters come to life and the various locations (a Bermondsey pub, Canterbury Cathedral, Margate) are vividly evoked.

But I found the funereal tone and speed of the book rather oppressive, particularly in the second half. A general sense that life is a disappointing business pervades as we move between hospital and home for the disabled. Meanwhile the quartet inches towards Margate with Jack's ashes in a plastic jar. It's all rather glum.

Swift's earlier book, Waterland, with its less gloomy theme, was for me more enjoyable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful And Evocative, 9 July 2012
By 
Keith M - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Last Orders (Paperback)
Graham Swift's 1996 novel Last Orders is an emotionally charged and brilliantly written tale of (predominantly) male friendship, and which captures a whole gamut of human experience, including loyalty, betrayal, parental love (and the lack of it), repressed feelings, jealousy, male chauvinism, etc. The other thing I find particularly fascinating (and actually quite appealing) about Last Orders is that its story focuses on the lives and relationships of working class characters, something which I (at least) find quite rare in the novels I read (outside of some genre, particularly crime, fiction). Swift's novel tells the story of four 'friends' (although acquaintances might be a better description) and their mourning of, and reminiscing about, another mutual friend (Jack), whose ashes they are preparing to dispose of, in line with his wishes, by throwing them into the sea at Margate.

The other element that bears on my reading of Last Orders is that, since I first read the novel, I have subsequently seen Fred Schepisi's 2001 film of the novel. Whilst the casting of film characters can often jar with one's own vision of who might be best suited to play certain literary characters, in this case, Schepisi was pretty much spot on - Ray Winstone as Vince, adopted son of Jack, a larger than life, cocky, car-dealer, who harbours a long-standing resentment against his 'father' for thwarting his teenage ambitions; Bob Hoskins as 'lucky' Ray, Jack's war-time colleague, whose family life has followed a path which is anything but lucky, but whose biggest regret is his betrayal of his best friend; Tom Courtney as undertaker Vic, the prim and proper member of this gang, a stickler for tradition; and, finally, (probably) the least successful piece of casting, David Hemmings as the loutish Lenny, whose dislike of Vince stems from Vince's unsuccessful relationship with Lenny's daughter Sally. The other major character is, of course, the deceased Jack himself (played by Michael Caine in the film), another dyed-in-the-wool character, a butcher, married to Amy, a (typically) tolerant and beleaguered wife, whose long-standing resentment towards Jack is a result of Jack's ostracizing of their mentally ill daughter June.

Swift has structured Last Orders into chapters which are separately narrated by the main characters. For me, this works well, and allows Swift to develop his characters more deeply and allows them to express their motivations more directly. The author's prose has also been specifically designed for his characters - in the main, it is concise, and its dialect is uncompromising, as befits his characters. Even so, there are also some great descriptive passages and Swift's writing superbly evokes the setting for his characters' journey through Kent - taking in visits to a war memorial in Rochester, a visit to Canterbury cathedral and a beautifully poignant conclusion at their destination Margate.

Whilst, for me, not quite matching his masterpiece Waterland, Last Orders is nevertheless a very fine novel indeed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Emotions at their best., 9 Dec. 2011
This review is from: Last Orders (Paperback)
A book with such a simple yet heart warming story most certainly deserves its praise. From the very first chapter it is impossible not to feel a sympathetic connection towards each character. Although the storyline may seem alarmingly similar to William Faulkner's "As I lay dying" and many might consider "Last Orders" to be a simple rip-off. Yet I stay convinced that a novel that has such a fragile underlying meaning between every chapter wasn't just blindly plagiarised from Faulkner's prior creation. Last Orders was the 1996 `Man Booker Prize' award winner.

The narrative mainly revolves around a family-man Jack Dodds and his last orders, "to whom it may concern", to scatter his ashes into the sea, off the end of the Margate pier. His son, now a successful car dealer, and three of his particularly close friends take this task upon themselves. The book follows the quartet all the way from their favourite pub in London to the very edge of Margate pier. Through the clever use of flashbacks throughout the novel you really get to know the main character Jack and his relationship between his friends, son, wife and even his daughter June. Despite it not being the usual beginning, middle and end type of book Swift made it easy to keep up with the constant time shifts as each chapter is narrated by a different person in Jack's life. The words "out of sight, out of mind" seem to be the reoccurring theme running through this story. Originally it was referred to Jack's first daughter June - who to her fiftieth birthday remains in a mental institution. Is Swift trying to impose a grand meaning that if you stop seeing something it merely ceases to exist, like Jack and June's relationship?

The flashbacks throughout make the readers really feel for the five simple London blokes who only six weeks ago were all sat together round the bar in their beloved pub waiting on those last orders. This book really sets out to push all the right buttons emotionally with its poignant story of crushed hopes and betrayal, however only you can decide whether it has fully achieved its goals. There is no point denying that at times it was rather predictable and slow-going, with every segment of the story being squeezed to its full exhaustion. Nevertheless almost every chapter unveiled new details that would overall come together to paint such a beautiful and genuine picture, and the final message you are left with is so much more deeper and substantial then what first meets the eye.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A touching tale of the lives of ordinary Londoners., 3 Nov. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Last Orders (Paperback)
This was the first title I have read by Graham Swift, but has inspired me to seek out all his other titles. It is a tale of four friends, their intertwined lives and loves, spread over a fifty year period commencing in World War Two. As with all the best books, Last Orders has realistic and human characters in whom readers will take a genuine interest.
The story is ostensibly based around a journey undertaken by three of the men (with a friend) to scatter the the fourth original member's ashes in the sea at Margate. Although similar to Faulkner's 1930 "As I Lay Dying", Swift's novel is none the less a great book in its own right.
If you like novels with strong characterisation and a genuine, touching story, I strongly commend "Last Orders" to you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On pilgrimage to Margate..., 12 July 2014
By 
John Goddard (Saffron Walden, Essex) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Last Orders (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed the understated beauty of this book. The intertwined lives of a group of friends are explored through their journey to Margate to scatter the ashes of one of their number. Issues of living and dieing, loving and leaving, winning and losing, simple pleasures and long-lived tragedy are played out within the group. It is thoroughly believable at every turn (with the possible exception of Lucky's luck on the horses...). It is not a book filled with happy endings, but it does demonstrate our human capacity to keep on going.

Last Orders won the Booker Prize and is one of the more accessible and down to earth winners. Highly recommended.

I wasn't very far into this book when I started to get the sense that I knew the story... Gradually it dawned on me that years ago I watched the film adaptation starring Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins. Time to look for the film again!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, Swift's best, 25 Jan. 2004
By 
Markus Isch "mege1" (Schweiz) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Last Orders (Paperback)
The bad news first: there is enough foundation to point out misogynist traits in Swift's work, but Waterland bothered me much more in this respect than Last Orders. In the latter, there is only Kath, who seems to have resorted to prostitution after her father pressed her to seduce potential buyers for his cars. All the other women are distinctly drawn and have their own minds. Amy, for instance, explicitly decides not to accompany the four blokes to Margate. It's the male characters in the book who have problems with women, not so much Swift this time.
And look how carefully built up the novel is. I, for one, found the frequent changes of point of view one of the novel's strongest points, and not at all distracting. I don't know the first thing about south London or Cockney, but it all rang true for me. Besides, I found it spellbinding to eavesdrop on these working-class men's internal monologues. Last Orders is probably no match for Shakespeare's Hamlet, but both texts feature definitely a lot about death and dying that is worth being told.
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Last Orders
Last Orders by Graham Swift (Paperback - 1 Nov. 1996)
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