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February by Lisa Moore

February (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Lisa Moore

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4223625,093 (3.87)207
Authors:Lisa Moore
Info:Grove Press, Black Cat (2010), Edition: 1, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:grief, tragedy, Newfoundland

Work details

February by Lisa Moore (2010)

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» See also 207 mentions

English (34)  Dutch (2)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
I really liked this story. Ms. Moore gets deep inside her characters, deep, deep inside in a way I very much admire, and her writing style, both intensely personal and beautifully evocative sucked me in from the first page and didn't let me go. At the risk of sounding like a commercial I laughed, I cried, and I read parts out loud to my husband. ( )
  RhondaParrish | May 9, 2014 |
Moore tackles a slice of life with poignancy and delicate emotion. I really enjoyed the seamless passages through time which help build the story, the characters and the reasons behind Helen's choices and John's dilemma. It created an energy and a rhythm which drew in the reader despite the relative lack of action.

Whereas the theme of the shipwreck is dealt with a lot of compassion as is Helen's ability to survive and raise her children, I was a little annoyed by Helen's inertia when came time to really build her life. She seemed trapped in time and I found it curious that it took her some 30 years to move on - not necessarily to remarry but simply to accept what had happened. The end, full of hope and renewal, is a lovely way to break that cycle, but I would have liked to see less lingering on Cal.

Overall, a touching and heartwarming novel. ( )
  Cecilturtle | Dec 22, 2013 |
On Valentine’s Day, 1982 the oil rig The Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland. 25 years later Mary O’Hara, the widow of one of the 84 men who died, thinks back on the disaster and about her relationship with her husband. Moore’s account is both unsentimental and deeply moving.
  vplprl | Nov 15, 2013 |
This book languished in a stack on a to-be-read shelf for almost two years, squashed between a Julian Barnes below and some short story anthology above.
It was 31 years ago on Valentine's Day that the Ocean Ranger oil rig sank off the coast of Newfoundland, killing all aboard.
31 years later, on Valentine's Day yesterday, February won the Canada Reads award. (Oh crap, now the masses will like it, it will be popular, and more often than not that means the writing sucks, but jeez, it's Lisa Moore, she's a good writer. She has cred!) I kept putting it off, fearing the mawkishness that was sure to fill the pages of a book about a widow of one of the dead crewmen. But that's not how it turned out. This isn't about wallowing in grief and outrage. It rises above that. The narrative skips around in time, both directly and indirectly as memories and dreams. This seems ideal for this type of story, because the present is so pregnant with the past. Very slowly the widow Helen begins to weave the future into her existence.
The structure, the architecture were great, but what I enjoyed the most was Moore's expressive prose. The effortless hyper-realism of her descriptions brought it to life, and overarching it all were quiet wisdoms and simple but profound insights. Lovely.

( )
  BCbookjunky | Oct 12, 2013 |
I love how Moore has drawn the characters in this novel--sympathetic, changing and very human. ( )
  crosbyc | Apr 24, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Is Lisa Moore a Buddhist? The tragic subject matter of her latest novel fits...I must pause here to confess that I usually find this kind of writing irritating. Novels constructed of luminous images make me feel like a dump truck is slowly tipping a load of rose petals over me. Where's the narrative? Like these other novels, February disregards conventional plot. Its present-time story line is minimal...Moore offers us, elegantly, exultantly, the very consciousness of her characters. In this way, she does more than make us feel for them. She makes us feel what they feel, which is, I think, the point of literature and maybe even the point of being human. For these 308 pages, I was Helen, grief-struck and in love with my husband, furious with him.
The novel's only real weakness is that this symbolic richness doesn't extend into the lives of its second-tier characters; Helen's three daughters, in particular, are only lightly sketched...The novel's ending, too, in which Helen finally slips the knot of her grief, seems suspiciously neat from afar. But these faults can be forgiven in the context of what Moore manages to pull off: a novel which takes a moment of catastrophe and focuses not on the moment itself but on all the moments that surround it; that are altered, subtly or dramatically, by it.
February is not plot-driven: the back-and-forth chronology is meant to flesh out emotional landscapes and fill in historical details. Although Moore writes with an almost brash economy, she cannot prevent February from coming off as an overly sentimental love story....Cal was the great and only love of Helen’s life, and she spends the 25 years after his death rather tediously reliving their time together and speculating about his final moments....would have worked as a short story – a genre at which Moore excels – but its impact is ultimately diluted by the novel’s amplitude.


With February, she has created an incredibly empathetic character in Helen, whose protective shell is always on the brink of cracking, even if her words and actions belie her vulnerability.
There’s an economy in Moore’s style that shows us how a once vibrant life can be whittled down by pain and loneliness. But, by grounding her writing in the physical world, Moore shows how life’s everyday tasks and encounters create a comforting continuity that allows forward movement.

Moore has great strengths as a writer, chiefly in her powers of description. She gives us the cold, steep streets of St. John’s in its many wintry incarnations and well-observed scenes of Iceland and Tasmania, where John travels, as well as glimpses of his business meetings and chance encounters in New York...But there are difficulties, in part with the novel’s pacing and in part with Cal himself. Moore is adept at conveying the emptiness that followed the accident, but not what had filled it....Moore is better at describing Cal’s physical rather than his emotional presence, which finally makes Helen’s protracted grief, although noble, hard to share.


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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lisa Mooreprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kunkel-Razum, KathrinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my parents, Elizabeth and Leo Moore.
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Helen watches as the man touches the skate blade to the sharpener.
Helen had something they did not have, something they aspired to but could not name. They would have been mortified to learn it was experience. They did not want experience. Helen was sad and the young women didn’t understand the sadness but they respected it. A blow had been struck, bull’s-eye, without warning, and it had scarred Helen.
Helen did not take tranquilizers. Her children would never know it, but this was her approach to parenting: she was there for them. Her doctor had said pills, and she had said no. Helen was there, morning, noon, and night. That was her approach. She had wanted to die. She did not die.
Life barrels through; it is gone. Something rushes through. The front door slams and then a door slams in the back; something burns on the stove; birthdays, brides and caskets, babies, bankruptcy, huge strokes of luck, the trees full of ice; gone.
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Book description
On Valentine’s Day, 1982 the oil rig The Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland. 25 years later Helen O’Hara, the widow of one of the 84 men who died, thinks back on the disaster and about her relationship with her husband. Moore’s account is both unsentimental and deeply moving.
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"...Propelled by a local tragedy, in which an oil rig sinks in a violent storm off the coast of Newfoundland, 'February' follows the life of Helen O'Mara, widowed by the accident, as she continuously spirals from the present day back to that devastating and transformative winter that persists in her mind and heart..."--Front flap.… (more)

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