Book Review

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

digression-free thoughts on a dull novel

This book wasn’t very good. 

It is now a “thing” that for every birthday my lover buys me a novel about time travel. Some of them (though I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head) have been excellent, but several of them have been pretty poor

Oona Out of Order is the worst written book I’ve read since that right wing vampire novel I read one day, nude, at Hanlan’s Point Beach last summer. Yes, it’s contemporary popular fiction and, yes, I need to accept that this type of book just isn’t good for me.

The premise of this novel is not bad: Oona, the lead character, is living her life out of order, psychologically. At midnight on the night of her 19th birthday, she is suddenly transported into her own body 30 years in the future. She then continues to erratically move backwards and forwards through her own physical form with her body, the outside world, and the bodies of her friends and family changing with no attachment to the seemingly chronological movement of her mind. 

Oona is rich (as people almost exclusively tend to be in popular fiction, which is really something that should be explored by someone more articulate and insightful than me), and she gets rich by basically doing the same thing as the the jock does in Back To The Future Part II, i.e. using her time travel-gained knowledge to make money by gambling and playing the stock market. The only difference is that she doesn’t have a physical book she can transport with her through her disordered timeline, Oona just has to remember everything and then write it down as soon as she arrives in the past. 

It’s all pretty mundane, unfortunately.

Oona doesn’t make any serious effort to change her own past or the wider world’s, and though there are a few “twists and turns” as she navigates her own life in the wrong order, they’re all quite underwhelming. For example, the person a generation younger than Oona who inexplicably lives in her mansion and seems to be her best friend, turns out to be her son; the man she is briefly married to who was clearly cheating on her, she still marries when she is older in mind/younger in body as she didn’t realise he was cheating on her, even though it was incredibly obvious.

The book is kind of fun but it’s very… it’s a very mundane life.

There’s nothing very exciting that Oona does with her knowledge of the future and her ability to relive her youth.

But maybe, actually, this is what most of us would do in the situation…

We would use the opportunity to try and tie up the loose ends of the relationships we regretted, the relationships we missed; imagine having the opportunity to… to… feel again the thrill of having a full head of hair, of being constantly propositioned by people for sex and always turning them down… you know, the things that happen when you’re young.

I mean… I don’t know… I don’t know if it would be nice to be in a younger body with the wisdom I now have… I mean, I’m not very – I mean I am kind of – wise… you know, I think I’ve experienced things in my time.

Anyway.

Montimore’s writing is super sloppy; the dialogue is wooden, there’s barely any characterisation, and though I suppose you could argue that the absence of character development of most characters is because they’re being experienced “out of order”, but there’s no real character development in the protagonist either, who is ageing, internally, in spite of the backwards/forwards/de-ageing/re-ageing that happens to her body. It’s… kind of fun.

It’s a very quick read. It’s a beach novel, I suppose, like that vampire novel mentioned above: fun, frothy, but ultimately trash.

Oona Out of Order has nothing interesting to say about humanity or life itself, no emotional depth and no catharsis, which is (for me) a very significant thing. It’s also not very exciting, y’know; there’s not even any adrenaline rush, because the nature of time travel in this text means everything and anything that happens is inevitable.

There’s no avoidance and thus there’s no pressure; there’s no sense of trepidation that things won’t happen, as they have definitely/will definitely happen. Ultimately, the things that are bad that happen to Oona aren’t terrible; there’s a flicker of violence at one point but it’s very quickly deescalated; instead, the great tragedies in Oona’s life are pretty simple things like breakups, grief following the inevitable deaths of elder family members, etc, and, yeah, overall, it’s just a very quotidian middle class life lived out of order, but still lived very much within the standard small-c conservative “order” of its intended readership.

The next book I’m reading is a guide to violent, aggressive, eco-activism, so very much an opposite book for an opposite audience.

At time of writing it is September 24th, signing off

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