Wreck and Order is the story of a self-proclaimed damaged woman piecing her life together in what ways she finds she can. The main character Elsie is a depressive thirty-something with a dead-end job writing obituaries for a newspaper. She lives off of her father’s generosity and thrives off of her abusive relationships with both herself and her significant others.
Throughout the novel, Elsie claims time and again to come from a broken family and a disturbing past, and the reader catches glimpses of these moments, but we get the feeling that Elsie is not the most reliable narrator. Her fantasies of being raped along with her lack of awareness of others in a world she thinks is all her own are only two examples of the delusion Elsie is experiencing. While an unreliable narrator can at times be a rather useful tool, Elsie proves only to be self-effacing and entirely self-indulgent.
Wreck and Order is structured as a self-help, self-realization novel, but author Hannah Tennant-Moore doesn’t quite let it go that far. Elsie seems to learn nothing over the course of her travels or experiences, and she continues to make poor choices that are fueled only by her self-pity. As the reader, it’s hard to empathize with her because of her lack of values and the lack of reasoning behind her selfish and moral-less state.
Elsie’s stagnancy and ignorance are perhaps the most frustrating aspects of the novel, and these character traits make it hard to actually get through the novel because of that frustration. While Wreck and Order does have areas where momentum is high and the reader is invested in the stakes, for the most part it is simply a diary of a deluded woman.
Wreck and Order was published by Hogarth in 2016.
FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.