Lisa Moore – February

Posted on | August 20, 2010 | 9 Comments

Lisa Moore's FebruaryMelancholic – that’s the first word that came to my mind when I finished this book. I’m guessing that’s how Helen, the protagonist, felt for a major part of her adult life. Her husband, Cal, had been on the Ocean Ranger that sunk in 1982, off the coast of Newfoundland – there were no survivors.

Fast-forward to 2008, which is when this book starts: Helen, now a middle-aged woman, is battling loneliness and misery, as she tries to find some kind of solace in looking after the grandchildren and sewing beautiful wedding and prom dresses as a career. She’s tried her hand at online dating, after being persuaded by the children; she’s tried yoga; working in a corporation and all in all, it just sounds like she’s tried a myriad of things to get over the grief – but to no avail. Does one ever actually get over losing a loved one?

The narration isn’t linear though – it’s almost like a series of random flashbacks and memories that have made up some of the happiest, saddest and most poignant moments of Helen’s life : be it receiving a Valentine’s card from her husband, days after the Ocean Ranger sank or, contemplating his last moments – did he at least get to play a last game of cards post-supper?

There is no plot – at least not one that I could find. It was essentially focusing on Helen’s despondence, as well as the lives of her children and grandchildren: her daughter getting pregnant at the age of fifteen, her daughter coming home drunk and escorted by the police. It’s also a very “twenty-first century” novel, with references to Cosmo and Vogue, eBay and online dating. I’m still not quite accustomed to seeing them in books – even though, for once, it didn’t sound like those references were forced. It was just part of the narrative, and it made the book more real somehow.

Did I enjoy this book – not really. It depressed me, and made me ponder on things that I ordinarily wouldn’t (e.g. do you ever get over the loss of a loved one, specially a husband?). It was just so – sad, for lack of better words! Well-written, descriptive, emotional, but sad! One of my favourite poems is Dylan Thomas’ Death Shall Have No Dominion, but clearly, those left behind beg to differ, as this book reminds us, not very subtly! Who knows how life can change by things we have no control over, when we least expect it to?!

Have you read anything by Lisa Moore? I’ve heard Alligator is worth a read – would you recommend it?

As for this book being on the Booker longlist – well, I personally don’t think it’ll make the shortlist, but hey! What do I know?! What do you think – does the shortlist have a place for February?


9 Responses to “Lisa Moore – February”

  1. She
    August 20th, 2010 @ 4:10 am

    This does sound impossibly sad :( I do really like that poem– it’s my first reading of it.

  2. Coffee and a Book Chick
    August 20th, 2010 @ 4:44 am

    I’m only used to seeing references to Cosmo or Vogue if I’m reading a Sophie Kinsella novel, you know?

  3. Claire (Paperback Reader)
    August 20th, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

    I’m currently reading this but taking it slowly because it is so draining and melancholic.

    I haven’t read enough of the Booker longlist yet to speculate whether this has a place on the shortlist or not; I do think it is a beautiful book and a very timely read with the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent Oil Spill.

  4. Jackie (Farm Lane Books)
    August 20th, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

    I didn’t enjoy reading this book either – its unrelenting sadness was just too much for me. I have heard very mixed things about Alligator. I actually own a copy, but I’m not sure I want to read it now. Will you read it and let me know if I should?!

  5. Stephanie
    August 20th, 2010 @ 11:10 pm

    This one was a DNF for me. The storyline would have worked for me but the writing style fell flat.

  6. Birdy
    August 22nd, 2010 @ 4:58 pm

    Seeing the tone of the book, Cecelia Ahern’s PS I Love You came to mind. I was not very impressed by the way that book came out, but this one seems to have a bit more substance. Nice review!

  7. Jodie
    August 27th, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

    I think this is the one off the Booker list I’m looking forward to the most and it sounds interesting from your review. I think there was a discussion somewhere about whether modern cultural references will date a book, or make it kind of charming like something from Persephone in years to come.

  8. anothercookiecrumbles
    August 30th, 2010 @ 12:11 am

    @ She : I love that poem, so glad you like it as well. The first time I read it, the lines echoed in my head for ages afterwards.

    @ Coffee and a Book Chick : I know! And I’ve only read the one Kinsella. :) Somehow, it didn’t seem out of place in this book though – mark of a good writer? Moving with the times, but not focusing on the references overtly? Or, just name-dropping?

    @ Claire : I was thinking of the Deepwater Horizon sinking as well, while reading this book, and how co-incidental it is that Moore’s book was published in the same year! It’s an extremely depressing book, and I have to admit, I didn’t exactly race through it, despite getting quite sad while reading it.

    @ Jackie : Haha sure, although considering you already have a copy, can I ask you to do the honours? :)

    @ Stephanie : I didn’t really have that much of a problem with the writing style, to be honest. Can see why one would though! Sorry you didn’t finish it :(

    @ Birdy : I’ve managed to avoid PS I Love You so far. It sounded slightly gimmicky to me – again, I was about sixteen when it gained popularity, and I tended to scoff at most romantic stories at the time, so maybe I’ll like it?

    @ Jodie : Think it depends on how the book is written. In some cases, it almost seems like the writers trying too hard to make the book current, with incessant name-dropping so much so that reading such a book becomes trying. However, as more and more twenty-first century fiction emerges, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of these cultural references that define our current lifestyle. It’s weird how so many things have become part and parcel of our life, and we take it for granted – future generations should probably know about that, no?

  9. Coffee and a Book Chick
    August 30th, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

    Sometimes I think it’s name dropping — after all, what a great way to get picked up by the magazine to be referenced! However, if it seems to fit in the overall storyline then that is definitely the sign of a fabulous writer — I might need to pick this one up!

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