Thursday, October 16, 2008

Laura's Review - Last Orders

Last Orders
Graham Swift
295 pages

In this Booker prize-winning novel, four men spend a day travelling from London to the coast to scatter the ashes of Jack Dodds, as he requested just before his death. Three of the men -- Ray, Lenny, and Vic -- have been friends with Jack for most of their adult life, living in the same working-class community, and earning their living in local businesses. The fourth, Vince, is Jack's son. Thoughts, feelings, and history are revealed through short chapters, each told from one character's point of view. Each man has experienced love, loss, friendship, disappointment, and varying degrees of prosperity. Their lives are intertwined, sometimes in ways that the characters are unaware of individually. For the most part, these men swagger and boast while inside, they are full of pain. There are a few women in this book, but they are minor characters. Jack's wife, Amy, is portrayed in the most detail. I felt sorry for her; she was trapped in a less-than-satisfying marriage, with family obligations that Jack refused to share.

Swift has a way of evoking a time and place, and the characters seemed like real people. Their stories were moving in parts. I'm a bit surprised this won the Booker Prize, as it doesn't seem to compare to other winners I've read, but it's a passable if somewhat melancholy read. ( )

My original review can be found here.

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