Winner of The Booker Prize 1996 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 of ordinary lives. Readers should be in no doubt that LAST ORDERS is an extremely fine novel, a surpassing testament to Swift's vibrant and powerful gifts. The Times An extraordinary achievement, a novel that effortlessly combines the tragic and the comic in human experience, the pathos and the bathos of ordinary lives...
Swift never puts a foot wrong. And he has succeeded in elevating the demotic to an elegiac level of which a Wordsworth could only dream: here is language such as men do use, and it proves flexible and wonderfully expressive. Guardian LAST ORDERS is not only a triumph for contemporary British fiction, it is a triumph for the hypnotic power of vernacular speech in its ability to create honest, lasting art out of life itself.
Swift's inspired use of natural speech rhythms throughout the novel is remarkable and virtually flawless...Swift has given these sad, angry and human individuals voices and lives so compellingly convincing that the reader comes to know them with a depth of intimacy fiction seldom achieves. Irish Times A triumph of quiet authenticity: a fine study of a group of characters, partly shaped by a particular time and place, silhouetted against universals of life and death; a novel that unflinchingly contemplates human perishability and that also pays unsentimental tribute to human resilience. Sunday Times A triumph...a story about the most fundamental things of all. Evening Standard Graham Swift shifts his masterful perspective on life's fragility to the working-class men of Bermondsey...With Swift's unerring empathy and wit, the voices never fail; to be true to life. Elle LAST ORDERS is a stunning book whose principal achievement is to confer a lyrical shape and dignity on ordinary people's thoughts. Time Out The accuracy is of eye and ear for visual details and the cadences of ordinary speech; but it goes beyond the merely meticulous to a sort of emotional perfect pitch. Spectator What is exceptional about this novel, apart from the marvellous prose-at once deceptively simple yet elegiac-is its visual quality: memory itself takes on a physical shape as the tale is told...It is as though Swift has brought to life the silent figures in a vast fresco on some lost wall of an old English church. Daily Telegraph The novel's hero is the English language as spoken by ordinary people.
Swift's own voice never interposes. Yet the effect is profoundly elegiac, proverbially wise, as rhythmic as the surge of waves.
Shakespeare occasionally gives lower-class characters speeches that shame the high-ups by their gentleness or nobility.
But here that effect is carried through a whole book.
Cockney speech becomes a vehicle for nuance and tenderness.
If language reflects the temper of its people, we should be proud of this book's language-or proud of the generation, now passing that spoke it. Sunday Times A book to match his masterpiece, WATERLAND.
LAST ORDERS confirms his reputation as one of the great contemporary chroniclers of landscape and memory. Observer His finest book to date; emotionally charged and technically superb.
LAST ORDERS is about how we live and how we die and our struggle to make abiding connections between the two. Times Literary Supplement A brilliant novel, sad and sparkling, humane, intelligent, sympathetic, funny; it rings absolutely true. Scotsman Tragic, comic and wonderfully compassionate. Daily Mail This beautifully calculated and tender novel, the best of his six so far, speaks volumes more than mere words. Mail on Sunday Beautifully written, gentle, funny, truthful, touching and profound. Salman Rushdie Swift has involved us in real, lived lives.
Quietly, but with conviction, he seeks to reaffirm the values of decency, loyalty, love.
He is, as John Dewey beautifully said of Emerson, `the sage of ordinary days'.
Never blind to the horrors of life, the pettiness of human beings, their greed and resentments, Swift yet insists on the essential dignity of humble people, whose lives he portrays with deft understatement and clear-eyed attention. John Banville, New York Review of Books Our lives are largely filled, the American writer Tobias Wolff has observed, by `white noise', We live in a great silence where what frightens us and sustains us is rarely given voice.
But when that silence is broken we bend forward and listen.
LAST ORDERS by the British novelist Graham Swift breaks the great silence with a quiet insistence that is profound and irrevocable...the author's compassion seems to elevate all it embraces. Washington Post Swift's achievement here is what Frank O'Connor said should be the purpose of the short story: to give voice to members of a submerged population.
The author has done this on the larger scale of a novel and without condescension.
His characters are not `mute Miltons' but speakers of their own lives-as clearly and fully as if the reader were one of them. Los Angeles Times LAST ORDERS is not your regular sort of novel.
It is one of the most perfectly written, perfectly moving pieces of new fiction in recent memory. San Francisco Examiner Graham Swift is a purely wonderful writer, and LAST ORDERS, full of gravity and affection and stylistic brilliance, proves it precisely. Richard Ford If you think that novels can no longer move us in all the old deep ways, I'd submit Graham Swift's LAST ORDERS as the most conclusive and beautiful proof that they most definitely can. Michael Herr
- Format: Paperback / softback
- Pages: 400 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
- Publication Date: 11/07/2019
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781471187292
- Paperback / softback from £6.89
- EPUB from £4.99