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Last Orders Paperback – 1 Nov 1996

3.6 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Nov 1996
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New edition edition (1 Nov. 1996)
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • ISBN-10: 0330345605
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330345606
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 1.9 x 13.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 874,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

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.

Review

'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.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Initially, I enjoyed the humour of this book but after a time, realised that I was skipping over large sections of it because it was just more of the same. I found the endless account of driving and stopping at the pub and the flashback accounts of Jack in the hospital bed tedious and depressing and decided that life is too short to spend time reading a book which I'm not enjoying. If I'm to stay with a book, I need to like at least one of the characters. I didn't like any of these.
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