Last Orders - Graham Swift (1996)

Last orders is the story of 4 men taking the ashes of their friend Jack Dodds through to Margate, save for his wife who refuses to abandon her duties. Spanning almost 50 years of their history together in post-war London, the book explores themes of love, loss, sacrifice, sense of self, regrets, hope, and absolution. The characters of Ray, Lenny, Vic, Vince and Amy are given their own distinct voices in each chapter. We are with them as they relive old pains, reinvent themselves and review their place in life. Through them we get an incomplete yet complex picture of Jack Dodds, the butcher, the soldier, the husband, the failed father. Each of our narrators had their own unique relationship with Jack, and choose to honour it in their own little way. I found the start of this book a little challenging, particularly when trying to identify all of the main characters. But each chapter helps unwrap the onion some more. I felt deep empathy for everyone in this book, and to me that's the sign it a great story. Through Graham Swift's words I saw and felt something new. Highly recommended.

Varisht Gosain (Sydeny Chapter)