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Last Orders

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  12,755 ratings  ·  556 reviews
Four men once close to Jack Dodds, a London butcher, meet to carry out his peculiar last wish: to have his ashes scattered into the sea. For reasons best known to herself, Jack's widow, Amy, declines to join them. On the surface the tale of a simple if increasingly bizarre day's outing, Last Orders is Graham Swift's most poignant exploration of the complexity and courage o ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published December 7th 2001 by Picador (first published January 29th 1996)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,755 ratings  ·  556 reviews

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Paul Bryant
Feb 11, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: novels, abandoned, bookers
Scene : the smoke room at the Bag of Grandmas, Old Kent Road, Bermondsey, East End, London.

Three novelists are propping up the bar and grouching.

Ian McEwan : My Booker Prize is bigger than yours.

Julian Barnes : No it fucking isn’t, they’re all the same size.

Ian McEwan : No they’re not, they make em bigger if they think it’s a better fucking work of literature.

Graham Swift : No they don’t

Ian McEwan : Yes they do, if Shakespeare has won it his’d be as big as the London Fucking Eye. Salman Rushdi
Kevin Ansbro
This uneventful novel was the Booker Prize winner of 1996. I glimpsed fleeting moments of literary excellence but the book's prosaic conversational style wasn't for me.
It also pained me to see ain't without its apostrophe on almost every page! Aint that annoying?
Mar 30, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-1996
This was easily the least exciting Booker Prize winner I’ve ever read.
You know that other London all us new hipster Londoners never get to know? Even though we all live together, on the same streets, we are divided by our pubs. There are the new hipster pubs with craft beer and a cosmopolitan atmosphere, and then right next to them, there is an old man pub. The Weatherspoon’s kind of affair with a tatty carpet and a clientele that has known each other for decades.

If I ever end up in a pub like
Last Orders, Graham Swift’s Booker Prize winner of 1996, is about four drinking buddies. In extension, we learn of their wives and children too. One of the four, Jack, dies of stomach cancer. In his will he asks that his ashes be thrown off the pier at Margate. Three of his buddies and his adoptive son agree to do this, but not his wife. Of course, you ask why. The book follows their one day outing from their place of residence, Bermondsey, London, to Margate on the coast. The time setting is th ...more
Jul 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
It ain’t like your regular sort of day.

Nope. It ain’t.

It ain’t my regular kind ‘o book, neither.
Jul 08, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british
This begins: “It ain’t like your regular sort of day.” Not exactly “Call me Ishmael” but you have to start somewhere. A little workshoppy, but there’s some promise there. Perhaps it could turn into a one-day, colloquial journey through themes and characters.

But then again, maybe not. In a few brisk chapters we have encountered (the word met suggests more purchase than we are given) Ray, Jack, Sue, Sally, Vince, Vic, Lenny, Amy, Bernie, Brenda, Joan, Mandy, Carol and Charlie. Was there any need t
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful, beautiful book. Graham Swift has got to be one of the greatest writers of our generation. This is not a large book, but one should take his time reading to savor his language, his great skill in crafting amazingly simple stories of everyday people. Swift brings his characters--in this book, butchers, junk dealers, used car salesmen, funeral directors, housewives--great dignity.

Four friends set out to scatter the ashes of a mutual friend, at his request. Not an original plot de
Jane Odgers
Nov 07, 2011 rated it liked it

Jack Arthur Dodds (deceased) - "Dodds and Son Family Butcher, since 1903".
Vince Dodds (Vincent Ian Pritchett) - "son" of Jack and Amy. "Dodds' Autos"
Ray "Lucky" Johnson - "...if you want to put a bet on, he's your man".
Lenny Tate, Grocer - "Gunner Tate, middleweight. Always pissed. Always late".
Vic Tucker, Funeral Director - " your disposal".
Amy Dodds - Jack's wife, mother of June (mentally disabled). " was hop picking that started it....It's all pickings."
Mandy Black -
John Anthony
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jack, a Butcher and propper up of the bar at his local (alongside his mates Raysy, Lenny, Vic and Vince, Jack's unofficially adopted son) dies. He wants his ashes scattered off Margate. His widow, Amy, passes the batton/urn to Jack's mates, who all have a soft spot for Amy. They set off from Bermondsey to Margate in Vince's flash car (he's a second hand car dealer and mechanic)for this purpose.

The story of their pilgrimage is endearingly human, sometimes tense, often funny, almost always full of
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
I loved this almost as much as Mothering Sunday. This one is very male-focused, populated by a group of bumbling, inarticulate, hard-drinking Londoners on a road trip to scatter their friend Jack's ashes, each man's grief complicated by tangles of Jack-related secrets. The polyphonic audio version is amazing. It took me a while to get into it, but the intensity gathered and gathered and cracked me wide open. ...more
Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, swift-graham
I won't describe the plot here. You can find that in the Goodreads description. I will make some observations, among them my idea that, whether by design or not, LAST ORDERS is Joycean. It is also accessible. The reason I think it may not be a conscious imitation of Joyce is that I suspect Joyce, fundamental innovator though he was, wrote in a tradition. Somebody once said you could go to any bar in Dublin and hear the sort of conversations you'd read in ULYSSES. Graham Swift's Englishmen (and w ...more
Aug 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Ordinary people have deep lives.

We live in the present and the past. I have only realised the last few years that time is not linear. We are continually dipping in and out of the past, the present and the future. We are living it all at the same time.

Graham Swift has written a complex book that tries to blend this truth with the other truth that "our" stories are not solely ours. We are part of history, of communities and families. Our inner worlds bump up against others, and historical forces
Elizabeth (Alaska)
My negative for this is largely due to my own lack of knowledge rather than the work itself. I think if I had been familiar with London and its environs my appreciation would be greater. It begins in Bermondsey. A Google search tells me it is one of the oldest areas of south London, but even that doesn't tell me what I think locals would know. From the story, I gather it is more of a working class neighborhood - but I gathered that from reading, not from foreknowledge. Foreknowledge would have b ...more
Mar 17, 2014 rated it liked it
This is one of those books where I could not decide if I like it until after I had finished reading it and thought about the book. It took me some time to get used to the language and Swift's style of writing. The book is told in various characters point of view. This actually was what I enjoyed most about the book. There are a lot of characters and people to keep track of. It took me some time to figure out who everyone was in relation to other characters in the book. In the end, I liked it but ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
The plot of this novel can be seen in other reviews on this site, or more comprehensively at

I came to this novel having last year read my first two Graham Swift novels, the strong Waterland and the excellent Mothering Sunday, one of my top 20 novels of 2016, but wary in case this was another of the right author, wrong book phenomenon associated with the Booker prize.

Unfortunately I think its a classic example (at least with the benefit of hindsight)

Sunaina Khurana
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
Meh. Don't get me wrong. The writer is really good. He has to be to be able to get into the skin of so many characters and portray them so distinctively. The plot is interesting too ... or could've been, if it were less convoluted with so many breaks for each character's narrative. But that's just it. It took me halfway down the book to get a grip on the story and the way it ended left me wondering what the point was. And throughout I couldn't wait to get over with it to go on to the next book. ...more
Vit Babenco
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
“First you count the years, the decades, then suddenly it's hours and minutes.”
We live and our time is slowly running out. We pass away but to those who knew us we leave memories. And if these memories are good we will be remembered longer.
“It evens out, because in one direction there's what's ahead and in another there's the memory, and maybe there's nothing more or less to it than that, it's nothing more or less than what you should expect, a good thing between two bad things.”
The present and
Thomas Edmund
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Last Orders is a strange one for a Booker Prize. Somehow its both hard and easy to read, deep and shallow, simple and convoluted. My book club and I decided this was probably intentional. While many parts of the tail are almost soap opera-like many parts cut much deeper, all while with a humourous bent and plain language.

The books blurb is fairly explanatory but one note I will make is there is very little war in this book. One could be forgiven for expecting a harrowing tale similar to the Long
carri farrand
May 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
let's stop in for a pint. jack would've wanted it. jack would've expected it.

Sidharth Vardhan
Feb 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Full of deceptively ordinary people with their little adventures, secrets and compromises, truths and lies, uninteresting lives and professions, and the very language hey speak in; 'Last Orders' brilliantly captures life few books ever manage to. Those are the people that you are likely to meet in your life - butchers, car dealers, insurance agents etc. The things they will do for their families and friends which show their character and courage will go unnoticed by the rest of the world.

Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a character study so it won't be everyone's taste. Most of the narrative is set in one day following four men on a road trip to scatter the ashes of a fifth man. Along the way, we read from each man's perspective as well as get flashbacks to get deeper understanding of their complex relationships.
Swift did a good job of setting up a web of deceit and duplicity shrouded under the worn faces of middle aged to elderly characters, and used it to comment on friendship and marriage but also
Ravi Gangwani
Different lives, different rules!
1996 Booker Prize Winner.
And Worst Booker Winner ever for me.

I would say during 1996 one of the judges named A L Kennedy was very upset with result and she said Booker as 'Crooked pile of non-sense' and after reading this (And also applicable only to this book as per my experience) and I understand her frustration.

This is nothing but just a story of a dead man who last wish to scatter his ashes in sea has been carried out by his friends. I think the voice are i

Upon reading the premise, I remember that the film has been watched:

Dedication: For Al

Opening quotes:

But man is a Noble Animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave. Urn Burial by Sir Thomas Browne.

I do like to be beside the seaside. John A. Glover-Kind

Opening: It ain't like your regular sort of day.
Jun 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I have been disappointed with Booker Award winners in the past, but this winner from 1996 was deeply satisfying to me.

My only reason for not giving it five stars is that I felt it was harder than it needed to be to learn the identities and backgrounds of the main characters and keep track of the time hopping that went on, even though I know that was a key to the novel's construction.

The story is built around a last wish by butcher Jack Dodds that his ashes be scattered off the end of Margate Pie
Oct 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
"I'd like to be all kinds of people....but I can't because I'm me....I don't want to be like me, I want to be like them but I can't I can't I can't."

It took me about one third of the book to straighten out the characters in my mind. I was thinking I should go back and re-read the beginning, but now I think it was better that all the stories were jumbled and then clarified. Or somewhat clarified. The characters themselves have not sorted out their relationships or their pasts either.

Each short ch
May 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
I feel the need with this review to point out that my rating has to do with how much I enjoyed the book/how much I got out of it rather than how I would rate the book as a piece of literature, capable of standing the test of time, etc. This is a technically accomplished novel, interesting characterization, but it just didn't do it for me. It was too straightforward with the narrative to interest me on that score and the characters created, while feeling quite true to life with all their faults a ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
An onion layered book of loss, relationship complexity, foundering trust, questionable loyalties, plenty of darker toned themes. But it’s not a book that took me down.

For all its turns and judders, it reads rather simply and matter of factly, oddly comfortably.

I found it often enough insightful, poignant, or beautifully phrased, yet always real rather than manufactured.

One detail that I oddly enjoyed was the choice of vocations for each character and how that fit with the literal and metaphor
Kasa Cotugno
I had to reread this for my book club, and chose the audio version. I also cheated, looked up the cast of the movie on imdb, and thus was able to more closely identify the characters, as there are numerous first person accounts. Thus, the book really fell into focus for me, the narrators' stories packed more of a punch. ...more
I actually enjoyed the short chapters told from different points of view. In fact, there was one really funny, really short chapter. Sadly, I also felt that the book, despite its excellent tone and prose was about 125 pages too long.
Tudor Ciocarlie
Mar 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Unfortunately I couldn't connect to this book..the language, the words, the English working class just could not engage with my 2011's mind in any way. ...more
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Graham Colin Swift FRSL (born May 4, 1949) is an English author. He was born in London, England and educated at Dulwich College, London, Queens' College, Cambridge, and later the University of York. He was a friend of Ted Hughes.

Some of his works have been made into films, including Last Orders, which starred Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins and Waterland which starred Jeremy Irons. Last Orders was a

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