Last Orders Paperback – 1 Nov 1996
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From the author of Waterland and Ever After, Last Orders is a quiet but dazzling novel about a group of men, friends since the second world war, whose lives revolve around work, family, the racetrack and their favourite pub. When one of them dies, the survivors drive his ashes from London to a seaside town where they will be scattered, compelling them to take stock of who they are today, who they were before and the shifting relationships in between. Both funny and moving, this won the Booker Prize in 1996.
'Inspired... His finest novel yet' Guardian 'Tragic, comic and wonderfully compassionate' Daily Mail 'A triumph... A novel that unflinchingly contemplates human perishability, and that also pays unsentimental tribute to human resilience' Sunday Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Life is too short for Last Orders. Enough of old men's ramblings without reading about them tooPublished 14 days ago by alan d smith
At the outset there are too many characters and it is not clear who they are. Gets confusing. The book definitely improves and the suspense fills as it progresses. Read morePublished 20 days ago by NativeBrit
Read this as part of a course. Would have done so otherwise. It was enjoyable, but I wasn't so keen on the multiples points of view. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Amazon Customer
I could not cope well with the Vince says...... Vic says...... Kenny says....... structure. It was not a pleasant read for me. Try mothering Sunday - much better.Published 2 months ago by felix gruijters
Wonderfully written in his terse evocative style. A simple story made deeply moving and familiar in that all families are complicated in their own way. I could not put it down.Published 2 months ago by Monica Quinn
A great book that was turned into a marvellous film. This was a whlly deserved booker prize winner and remains a heart felt albeit very funny read.Published 4 months ago by Yoobie 2
I read this many years ago and loved it. This copy was bought as a gift for a grandson.Published 4 months ago by A grandmother