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Last Orders Paperback – International Edition, January 14, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0679766629 ISBN-10: 0679766626 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 14, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679766626
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679766629
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #882,039 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews 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 favorite 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 in 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

On a bleak spring day, four men meet in their favorite pub in a working-class London neighborhood. They are about to begin a pilgrimage to scatter the ashes of a fifth man, Jack Dodds, friend since WWII of three of them, adoptive father to the fourth. By the time they reach the seaside town where Jack's "last orders" have sent them, the tangled relationship among the men, their wives and their children has obliquely been revealed. Swift's lean, suspenseful and ultimately quite moving narrative is propelled by vernacular dialogue and elliptical internal monologues. Through the men's richly differentiated voices, the reader gradually understands the bonds of friendship, loyalty and love, and the undercurrents of greed, adulterous betrayal, parental guilt, anger and resentment that run through their intertwined lives. Each of them, it turns out, has a guilty secret, and the ironies compound as the quiet dramas of their lives are revealed. Amy, Jack's widow, does not accompany the men; she chooses instead to visit her and Jack's profoundly handicapped daughter in an institution, as she has done twice a week for 50 years. Swift plumbs the existentialist questions of identity and the meaning of existence while remaining true to the vocabulary, social circumstances and point of view of his proletarian characters. Written with impeccable honesty and paced with unflagging momentum, the novel ends with a scene of transcendent understanding.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Swift had several characters who narrated.
Roger Taylor
If you like that sort of thing, this is the book for you, but it definitely wasn't for me.
Nimue Melpomene
Swift writes with elegance and clearly loves the England he so wonderfully evokes here.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Karbovsky on January 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
Last orders (either in a pub before its closing-time or in one's lifetime before its termination) is a moment of final decision, a moment of ultimate truth. Everyone who has faced in their life a death of any intimate person - a friend or relative - comes to a conclusion that funeral rites are intended not for the deceased (who is already in some other place, far from this mortal coil) but for those who are still alive. Death of every person portends personal departure and compels to appraise their own life, to encounter the truth, at least tacitly. The novel of Graham Swift is the most perfect description (I've ever read) of that painful process.
Before his death Jack Dodd ordered to scatter his ashes into the ocean from Margate Pier. His three intimate friends and adopted son perform the order. Their (and some other person's) short conversations, intertwined memories and interdependent thoughts during this trip from London to Margate polyphonically form the story - warmth of human love and compassion, bitterness of mutual misunderstanding and disappointment, unrealized dreams, ambiguity of love&hate relations between father and son, - all that molds individual lives. It is significant that their way lies through Canterbury and its Cathedral, for self-comprehension is impossible without personal repentance and vindication of another's sins and misdeeds. The last chapter of the book is surprisingly calm: the human harmony undisturbed by berserk weather gives hope that accomplished mission was not in vain.
Author's mastery in representing distinct voices of his heroes surpasses every praise. Those, for whom English is only second language (as for me),at first can be perplexed by abundance of slang terms and indigenous allusions.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Graham Swift's "Last Orders" is a beautifully written novel about how the life-long friends of a recently deceased come together to carry out his last wishes to have his ashes scattered at a seaside town. Told through the eyes of his wife and buddies, the vantage point shifts from one to the other, as family secrets, private pains, hopes and aspirations are revealed through their alternating rumination. The dialogue (if you can describe the barely literate half slurred half spat sentences that spew from their mouths as dialogue) is authentic and evocative of the working class milieu. There is also a gentleness and grace about the reflections of the ensemble cast that lend a special poignance to this "boys tale". Though their talk centre on drinking and betting and male bonding type activities, it is the revelation of their domestic lives and their problems with wives and children that shape the novel. In as much as I derived great reading pleasure and would recommend the book highly to friends, I also found certain aspects of it frustrating. If Swift had been less obscure and more directly explanatory about some of the characters, it would have made for a tighter and more satisfying read and deserved a full five-star rating.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 13, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Only three stars for a Booker prizewinner? The underlying story of this is good: four men, septuagenarians mostly, go from London to Margate to throw the ashes of one of their friends into the sea, their journey punctuated by memories of their intertwining lives over the previous fifty years. Despite betrayals and resentments, despite the fact that none of the men have done especially well for themselves, this is a story of the type normally hailed as life-affirming.

However, it is a very difficult tale to follow, even for a Brit, as I am; it must be even harder for an American. You have to know the dialect and, within it, to pick up the slight differences in voice between the various narrators. You have to know the geography, especially the social geography, of South London and North Kent. You have to keep the time-frame straight as it zigzags around over five decades. And you have to remember the relationships between a cast of characters all of whom have typically simple but barely memorable names, such as Jack, Vic, Vince, Ray, Lenny, Kath, Sally, and Susie, many of which also appear in familiar variants. It took me a while to get the major characters straight, but I can't say even now that I am sure which of the women is whose wife, whose lover, or whose daughter.

All the same, the underlying positive mood comes through, and it may well be worth sticking with these folks on their journey; just don't expect an easy trip.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 16, 1998
Format: Paperback
I think I must be missing something.
Perhaps because I'm a girl, and this is a story of male loves and friendships, I found this book profoundly unsatisfying. It should have pushed all the right buttons - the story of four friends going to scatter the ashes of the man whose presence interwove their lives. With a premise like that, and an author as lyrical as Swift, it should have been a deep and moving meditation on mortality and the patterns that make up our lives.

But it wasn't.

Or, at least, I didn't find it so. Judging by the host of commendations it received, this was my fault, not the book's.

For me, though, this book fell down in a number of concrete ways.

The story is told through several voices, but I found three of the main voices, Len, Vic and Ray difficult to differentiate. (Perhaps, said the voice inside me which believes the Booker Prize judges, he was trying to say that they're very similar people really. Maybe, but if so, this was a confusing way to do it.)

The characters were incredibly articulate about their feelings internally, but extremely inarticulate towards one another. (The voice of the Booker Prize said - ah, this is a marvellous truth - the things left unspoken, the words we can never say.... But my own taste said - this doesn't make sense. The fact that they think one thing and then say something completely different to each other just makes it seem that they're lying.)

It seemed unrealistic that the lives of these people would be so heavily dependent on one another. (The Booker Prize said - beautiful! The interweaving of one person's life with another - the unintended effects...)

What can I say?
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