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February by Lisa Moore

February by Lisa MooreThe novel February by Canadian author Lisa Moore was one of my “outsider” choices to read from the 2010 Man Booker Prize longlist. Certainly the cover didn’t really mark it down as my sort of book, but nevertheless the jacket notes sounded intriguing so in the end I thought I would give it a try.

Moore is without doubt a talented writer, but I was left with mixed feelings on reaching the end of February. Find out why below.

Read on for a full review….

-- February by Lisa Moore a Review by Des Greene --

February is set in Newfoundland, and the plot is chiefly concerned with the emotional fallout following the capsize and loss of a drilling rig, the Ocean Ranger, during a storm in February 1982. The main character of the novel, Helen O’Mara loses her husband Cal in the disaster, and is left pregnant and with a young family to raise on her own.

The story cuts back and to, from present to recent past, to the night of the disaster, and beyond to her young married life with Cal. We learn of her love and loss and her struggles to cope, and also to an extent the effects it has had on the children, both as they were raised and onward into adulthood. Although the book does flit backward and forward in time, not only on a chapter by chapter basis, but also at times from sentence to sentence as thoughts and memories pop into Helen’s mind, it is skillfully handled and never leaves the reader grasping for what is going on.

I did think that certain interesting family conundrums and potential conflicts were opened up and then left inadequately unexplored, for example,  Helen’s son John’s career as a health and safety adviser to the offshore industry. His consultancy basically appears to provide his clients with ways of providing the absolute minimum possible, but we are pretty much left to guess at what he feels about this or what his mother thinks of his job.

However, my biggest problem with this book is how it left me feeling, or rather not feeling. A book of this nature which deals with human experience rather than being more plot driven, really needs to emotionally engage with the reader, but I’m afraid for me it didn’t really elicit any more feelings than a slight sense of melancholy.

Since (as the name implies) largely concerns itself with recommending great books to read, you may well ask why I have bothered to write a review of a book that I have such misgivings about. Well, the trouble is, I did actually enjoy the book. It’s a good story, well structured and very well written; the emotional engagement issue is such a personal one that another reader may well empathise deeply with the characters and experiences outlined. On that basis I would still recommend reading February for yourself and making your own judgement.

Already read February? What did you think of it? Please post a comment below, Novel Suggestions is always keen to hear your opinions.

Novel Suggestions only provides fiction book reviews of books that we personally recommend. We don’t spend our valuable time writing reviews of books which we feel would be a waste of your valuable time!


  1. I have to agree with you. This book was beautifully written, but it just left me feeling a little sad. I should have been heartbroken by what happened, but I found I didn’t care enough. I don’t actively recommend it to anyone.

    1. Des says:

      Hi Jackie,
      I’m glad it was not just me who felt like that. I know characters aren’t always meant to likeable, but I also found myself struggling to care (particularly about Helen’s children who all seemed a bit shallow).

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