Last Orders by Graham Swift

Last Orders
by Graham Swift
(Random House of Canada, Toronto: 1996 (Vintage Canada edition, 1996))
(first published in England in 1996; current edition 2002)

READ: January 2005

Graham Swift is one of my favourite contemporary British writers. Other good books of his that I have read include Waterland, The Sweet Shop Owner and Shuttlecock. I was first introduced to his books when I was at York University for my undergrad, and I worked as a student writer at excalibur.

Last Orders is the tale of four men, very old friends, who are on a "pilgrimage", as it were, to dispose of the ashes of one of their friends and wartime comrades, Jack. He wanted his ashes to be scattered at sea, so they set off for a few hours' drive across England (from the outskirts of London) to the coast. Sounds simple enough, but Swift has packed a lot of plain human-ness in there. We start out with much of the story being told by Ray, one of Jack's oldest friends, but eventually, as the role of narrator gets shared among the other men (as well as some of the absent wives), we realize that neither Ray, nor any of the rest of them, are ever telling us the whole story. It is a simple premise, yes, but poignant and gripping, and a very satisfying read.

2005 booklist

  1. Last Orders by Graham Swift

  2. Hyperspace : A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension by Michio Kaku

  3. Microserfs by Douglas Coupland

  4. One Earth by Kenneth Brower

  5. Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

  6. Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto

  7. Japanese for Busy People by the Japanese Association for Language Teachers

  8. The Netherlands (Lonely Planet Guide), 2nd ed. by Jeremy Gray and Reuben Acciano

  9. A Little Taste of ... Japan by Jane Lawson and Charlotte Anderson

  10. Wanderlust: Real-Life Tales of Adventure and Romance, edited by Don George at

  11. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

  12. The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien

  13. Puppies for Dummies by Sarah Hodgson and Dog Training for Dummies by Jack and Wendy Volhard

  14. A History of Western Science by Anthony Alioto

  15. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

  16. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

  17. Buddhism by Kulananda

  18. Art History by Marilyn Stokstad

  19. Learned Friends: A Tribute to Fifty Remarkable Ontario Advocates, 1950-2000 by Jack Batten

  20. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

  21. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

  22. Fodor's Exploring Japan, 3rd ed.

  23. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

  24. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

  25. The Art of Twentieth-Century Zen by Audrey Yoshiko Seo

  26. How to Look at Japanese Art by Stephen Addiss

  27. Art, Life and Nature in Japan by Masaharu Anesaki

  28. Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence by Andrew Juniper

  29. No Time: Stress and the Crisis of Modern Life by Heather Menzies