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Last Orders

Length: 8 hrs and 29 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (138 ratings)
Regular price: $24.47
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Publisher's Summary

Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 1996

When four men carry out another's final wishes, they are forced to take stock of who they are, who they were, and what lies in between.

"It ain't like your regular sort of day," Ray admits. The Coach and Horses pub in London's East End opened just five minutes ago, and Ray is already having a pint. He's soon joined by Lenny and Vic, who arrives carrying a box. Vic "twists the box round so we can see there's a white card taped to one side. There's a date and a number and name: Jack Arthur Dodds."

The three men, friends since World War II, have gathered to carry out Jack's last orders and deliver his ashes to the sea. A fourth comes, too, and serves as the driver: Jack's adopted son, Vince. As they move together toward the fulfillment of their mission, their errand becomes an extraordinary journey into their collective and individual pasts. Their voices - and Jack's, and that of Jack's widow Amy - combine in a choir of sorrow and resentment, passion and regret. An interwoven series of first-person narratives shifts between times and tenses, memories and revelations.

A testament to a changing England, a stark portrait of its working class, and a morality tale that hides its ambition and expertise under moving naturalism, Last Orders is a stunning achievement by one of England's greatest living writers.

©1996 Grham Swift (P)2003 HighBridge Company

Critic Reviews

"A profound, intricately stratified novel full of life, love lost, and love enduring." (The Globe and Mail)
"Written with impeccable honesty and paced with unflagging momentum, the novel ends with a scene of transcendent understanding." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Robert
  • West Hartford, CT, USA
  • 03-23-06

Don't hesitate

I cannot recommend this selection highly enough. It is a beautifully written, and wonderfully read book. It took a short while to become accustomed to the accents, but what a treat it was coming to know them.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Garry
  • Cannington, Australia
  • 12-05-12

Friends forever care even in death.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I first saw this as a great movie with a great English cast and was eager to see how this audio would compare and it does. This is how London was when I was growing up, friends forever looking after the loved ones, caring for mates.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The care for the widow, the treatment of the ashes with reverence.

Any additional comments?

A true story of friendship in a time when friends really were friends for life.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

An interesting piece of writing

The writing by far is better than the story itself. It very slow start. I would've liked a little more narrative upfront, at least a sense of knowing where things were going. But the writing is phenomenal.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Joe Kraus
  • Kingston, PA, United States
  • 03-07-19

Confusing, But With Engaging Rhythm

I have to admit, I didn’t give this one the attention it deserves. I gave it a shot because it’s a Booker Prize winner and because it was on sale. I liked the tone, the sense of overhearing the conversations from the “gentleman” farther down the bar who talk as if there’s no one else in the room, but it turns on so much subtlety that I lost track of much of the underlying context.

I couldn’t always tell, for instance, which friend had which frustration over the charge to bury their friend Jack. Some were drawn to Jack’s wife, Amy, and Amy herself was so full of resentment that she didn’t want to be part of the journey to scatter the issues. I never found out why, and I lost track of how Jack and Amy’s son Vince fit into the plot, but in some ways I didn’t care. That’s because, while tedium is a part of the narrative method, it also seems a large part of the context. These are men who haven’t seen their lives turn out as they hoped. Their pleasures are a pint at the pub and pretending the old times were better than they were.

To my surprise, though, I didn’t stop reading (well, listening). The rhythm of the speakers themselves kept me going. Like those too-loud gentlemen at the bar, they entertained me sometimes, often enough, that I could never quite pull the plug on the story. I sensed its general outline – they’re carrying the ashes and getting ever closer to their destination – and that crossed with the rich language of the speakers kept me going.

I wish this one reset itself more often than it does, that it caught us up periodically, but I think that reflects some of its moment. It’s a dated work in some ways, both in its echoes of a Modernist structural ambition and in its unreflective display of the working class as objects, but it seems a strong example of its kind.

From quick digging, I see that this had some notoriety for echoing the plot of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. I suppose I see that, but I’d say it has more in common with a favorite of mine, Wallace Markfield’s To an Early Grave, which also tells the story of a group of friends as they venture to their dead friend’s funeral. Or throw in Daniel Fuchs’s wonderfully playful Homage to Blenholt about a young man determined to pay his respects at the funeral of the neighborhood Jewish gangster boss. Or, for that matter, Antigone, who’s determined to see her brother buried despite Creon’s edict otherwise.

So, as a quick retort, I’d say I don’t hold it against this at all that some people saw parallels to Faulkner. If you’re going to steal, steal from the best, right? And remember that Faulkner was stealing as well.

This one falls short of the greatness I’ve come almost to take for granted from more recent Booker prize winners, but it’s a striking experiment in form and tone, so I’m glad I didn’t put it all the way down.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Not my taste

I had to read this book for class. I especially found the first half difficult with its crass British humor. It was also difficult to keep up with all the characters at first, so I recommend making a character chart to keep them straight as you read. I was grateful for the audio book to get me through! Not a bad read overall.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Dennis
  • Washington, DC, United States
  • 04-08-08

Hold the Last Orders

It is difficult to distinguish among the characters because it is not apparent who is speaking, and their accents require a better ear than mine. However, it makes little difference because their dialogue is trite and their characters stereotypical. I had little interest in finishing this one.

10 of 20 people found this review helpful