February by Lisa Moore

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February by Lisa Moore

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Luci Davin
Reviewed by Luci Davin
Summary: A thoughtful, reflective novel about coming to terms with the past and future.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: February 2011
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099546283

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When the phone rings in the middle of the night, Helen thinks it must be bad news again. Nearly 27 years ago her oil rig worker husband died at sea on 14 February 1982 (Valentine's Day), leaving her with three children and a fourth on the way. This time, no one has died – her son John is travelling round the world but a woman he had a brief fling with is pregnant with his baby. He was phoning from Singapore. What should he do?

February is Canadian novelist Lisa Moore's second novel (she has also published two collections of short stories) and was longlisted for the Booker Prize. It is a thoughtful, contemplative book about coming to terms with the past and a different future from the one the characters envisaged. The narrative shifts between Helen and John, and also Jane, the pregnant woman. This is not a tightly plotted story – it is a narrative of thoughts, and while the characters have family and friends to interact with, they spend a lot of their time here alone with their thoughts. It's difficult to explain how all this reflection can make for such a compelling novel

Helen remembers meeting John, marrying, getting pregnant, and the night he died in a storm. The oil company didn't even tell the families of the drowned men directly, but suggested they listen to the news on the radio.

This novel is beautifully written. I found Helen's story of her past, of coming to terms with what has happened and moving on from it, very moving. There was enough description of her relationship with her husband Cal to really sense the extent of her loss when he died. John was a more annoying character. I could sympathise with his confusion about Jane's pregnancy, as he had clearly expected a no strings fling and never to see her again. I was outraged though when he took on a job working for an oil company to identify where they could cut corners on health and safety bureaucracy, and it was all the more shocking because of the nature of his father's death.

Like several other recent novels including Room by Emma Donoghue (shortlisted for the Booker in 2010), Moore has taken the inspiration of a real life event and imagined what it might have been like to live through its aftermath.

My biggest criticism of this book is the rather puzzling cover, showing the torso of a woman in a summer dress. It's attractive, but why that dress in a book set in the winter months? Also, from the visible bits of her (her arms), the woman is too young to be Helen and doesn't look pregnant enough to be Jane.

Thank you to Vintage for sending a copy of this book to The Bookbag.

Other contemplative novels include Molly Fox's Birthday by Deirdre Madden, or Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler.

Buy February by Lisa Moore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy February by Lisa Moore at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy February by Lisa Moore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy February by Lisa Moore at Amazon.com.


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