Last Orders by Graham Swift was originally published in 1996. My hardcover copy has 295 pages. Last Orders was the recipient of the Booker Prize for 1996. This is a quiet, depressing novel in many ways. A group of long time friends are taking their friend's ashes to the sea. But as they take the journey, we are the silent audience to their private thoughts and history. The chapters are short and jump from the voice of one character to another. It would behoove readers to pay attention to the characters in the beginning to easily follow them as the tale unfolds. I would agree with the reviewers who said that this book is set in a closed world. I felt very much outside of their world, perhaps because I'm not British, although the book itself was haunting. Rating: 4
Four men gather in a London pub. They have taken it upon themselves to carry out the last orders of Jack Dodds, master butcher, and deliver his ashes to the sea. As they drive towards the fulfillment of their mission, their errand becomes an extraordinary journey into their collective and individual pasts. Braiding these men's voices, and that of Jack's widow, into a choir of sorrow and resentment, passion and regret, Swift creates a testament to a changing England and to enduring mortality.
"It aint like your regular sort of day." first sentence
"I've been wondering what he'll have with him. So's Lenny, I dare say. Like I've had this picture of Vic opening the pub door and marching in, all solemn, with a little oak casket with brass fittings, But all he's carrying, under one arm, is a plain brown cardboard box, about a foot high and six inches square, He looks like a man who's been down the shops and bought a set of bathroom tiles." pg. 3
"It's a comfort to know your undertaker's your mate. It must have been a comfort to Jack." pg. 4
"But the gist of it is plain. It says he wants his ashes to be chucked off the end of Margate pier." pg. 13
"If he had to be chucked, if it was a case of chucking, if he had to be taken to the end of somewhere and chucked, but count me out, Jack, I won't be doing any chucking, then it had to be the Pier. Though it should have been the Jetty." pg. 19-20