Author: Lisa Moore
Publisher: House of Anansi Press
Date Published: June 15th 2009
Source: CBC Books
In 1982, the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland during a Valentine’s Day storm. All eighty-four men aboard died. February is the story of Helen O’Mara, one of those left behind when her husband, Cal, drowns on the rig. It begins in the present-day, more than twenty-five years later, but spirals back again and again to the “February” that persists in Helen’s mind and heart.
Writing at the peak of her form, her steadfast refusal to sentimentalize coupled with an almost shocking ability to render the precise details of her characters’ physical and emotional worlds, Lisa Moore gives us her strongest work yet. Here is a novel about complex love and cauterizing grief, about past and present and how memory knits them together, about a fiercely close community and its universal struggles, and finally about our need to imagine a future, no matter how fragile, before we truly come home. This is a profound, gorgeous, heart-stopping work from one of our best writers.
Number of Days It Took to Read: 9
The Writing Score: 4.5 out of 5
Recommendation: Must Read
Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable
Rating: 5 out of 5
Pros (A. A. Omer):
The prose is phenomenal in this book. It gripped me in a headlock right away and I couldn’t stop reading except when I had to do school work. The characters are sympathetic and relatable. Despite the story being about grief, it wasn’t an overly depressing book but instead a book who’s sadness is evident or just below the surface as a reminder every now and then which is what grief is. It’s something that never truly goes away but becomes a management thing. I’m really happy that the story wasn’t told in a linear fashion because the going back forth between time as well as between characters served the story. Helen is such a flawed character and so human that my heart broke for her. I really was immersed in the story and there’s the added bonus that it involved a moment in history in Canada (1982 Ocean Ranger). This my Canada Reads 2013 winner right here.
Number of Days It Took to Read: 3
The Writing Score: 3 out of 5
Recommendation: Casual Perusal
Memorable or Forgettable: Forgettable
Rating: 3 out of 5
I’m sorry to say that this book did not really do it for me. The plot was not very interesting instead it was a bit confusing. This may be attributed to the fact that there was a lot of back and forth between different times and characters at times with little or no warning. Although I did find Jane’s academic and family background to be somewhat intriguing and Helen’s grieving process to be very real, the other characters in the book did not really stand out. To me they just felt like characters on the page that I could not relate to in any way. I would have liked to see more of Helen’s daughters as I am sure they would have an interesting perspective on things, as well as a different kind of story to tell than Helen’s son John. Finally the writing in this book was of an uneven quality though there were some beautifully written sentences near the end of the book. Overall the writing was quite sensual and intimate which allows the reader to really get inside the characters’ heads which would have been better with more interesting and complex characters. Taken as a whole, February is a book that I think fans on contemporary Canadian fiction may enjoy if they have the patience to keep pace with the choppy nature of the plot and writing and the fact that sometimes within a single paragraph or even sentence more than one time period is blended together.
What do you think? Is this book Canada Reads worthy?
A. A. Omer/Lynn
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