This collection of stories is dark, disturbing, at times humorous, and at others nightmarish. The children's voices in the book are part of what make it so special, like the narrator in "Why Jimmy" or, "The Only Child". Another reviewer has mentioned Pringle's mastery of leaps in child logic that make her characters so vivid.
The title story in particular stuck with me long after I read it. The language of the story makes it initially confusing, plunked right into this person's mind. But as the picture slowly becomes clearer throughout, as the narrator's situation and deeds unfold, the horror of it comes to life. There is insight into the narrator's delusional reasoning, as the reader gets to participate in her thought processes, and it creates compassion for her. But in the last few paragraphs it's clear what "The Floating Order" refers to: the order in which a mother leads her children to the bath to drown them. It's painted so vividly, I could barely re-read the passage to write this review. It's more than poignant. Its visceral but at the same time has a childlike innocence about it: a mother's love mingled with the most unimaginable actions, though it is clear she does so because of her love and desire to save them. There are no easy answers given. It makes you think about hard things.
A lot of the stories have a dream-like quality, or rather, nightmarish. I thought the story "Halfway There" felt the most clearly dreamlike, as it starts out very grounded in reality and the day to day of a mother's experience and then slowly drifts into surreal nightmare - or certainly, every mother's worst nightmare. That is the way I could read each story most comfortably. As if these were horrible nightmares, but they weren't real, and they could be woken up from, and the children wouldn't really be mangled, or alone, or neglected or abused. But the experience of reading these stories, and being forced to think about life (and the sometimes scary things in it) both from a child's perspective, and an adult's - I don't know how else to put it other than, it really gets to you.
It's not a book about lovely things, but the language is beautiful. It's unusual and imaginative, with interesting pacing and juxtaposing un-like thoughts in a way that makes what is said stand out more. The Floating Order is a wonderful, disturbing collection of stories that stay with you long after you put the book down. The quality of writing alone makes it well worth the read. I highly recommend it.