Thursday, October 6, 2011

Athena K's Review - Last Orders

Last Orders is a solidly good book.  I read somewhere that all good Booker books create their own language to draw you into their world.  The unique language is what elevated Last Orders.

The story is a bit depressing (so you know I liked it).  Jack has died, and his best friends and adopted son are tasked with the job of fulfilling his final wishes or "last orders."  Bonus: this involves a road trip!   On the way, the characters (and absent wife) reminisce about their time and experiences together - involving World War II, marriage, children, and a changing and modernizing world.  Each character takes turns narrating short, succinct chapters with pithy reveals.

I have not read many books set in working class mid-century London, and this was a learning experience for me.  Motors and cars represent the modern world (but Ray is still obsessed with horses).  Vincey, Jack's adopted son abandons the family business for a new future in cars.  But as with any future, this one isn't all its cracked up to be. Perhaps like the cars, the narration moves too quickly at times - I had to put the book down after some passages to think on the revelations that just occurred.

More interesting and accessible to me was the role and position of the women in this book who, although mostly absent, seem to drive the character and motive of each of the narrators.  Ray, the prime narrator has the most interesting relationships with women.  His daughter's struggle to find independence, his wife's failure to do the same, and his complicated relationship with Amy were my favorite parts by far.  But each of the narrators struggles with the male/female relationship, especially as husband/wife and father/daughter.

The only reason this doesn't earn tippy-top reviews from me is that it took me a longer time than normal to sort the characters out at the beginning, and I think Graham Swift  used up his good surprises in the middle of the book leaving me a bit disappointed at the end.  But it was a worthy read and winner.


  1. Also, not if this is made clear in the narrative, but the title has secondary meaning: last orders are what pub owners shout at the end of serving hours.

  2. I was wondering about that based on a line at the beginning of the novel. Apparently I need to spend more time in pubs in London!

  3. At a point I'll have to start the Bookers. I love your earlier quote about Booker books creating their own language.