February – Lisa Moore

The BookDepository

 Long listed for 2010 Booker Prize

On the 15th February 1982, an offshore oil drilling platform sank off the coast of Newfoundland, killing all 84 people on board. February is a fictional account of how one woman, Helen, grieved the loss of her husband, Cal, and how her family learned to cope with his death.

As you can tell from the synopsis this isn’t a happy book. In fact February was so laden with grief that I struggled to read it.  The book flips forwards and backwards through time, showing us Cal as a happy, family man and then the family struggling after his death.

Helen was in a panic as if something very bad was going to happen, but it had already happened. It was hard to take in that it had already happened. Why was she in a panic? It was as if she were split in half. Something bad was going to happen to her; and then there was the other her, the one who knew it had already happened. It was a mounting and useless panic and she didn’t want to faint. But she was being flooded with the truth. It wasn’t going to happen; it had already happened.

This book had very little plot, but for once that wasn’t a problem for me. I’m afraid that my main complaint is that February is just too depressing. It wasn’t shocking or thought provoking – it just slowly dragged my mood down. By the end of the book I was so depressed I had to watch a good hour of comedy on TV in order to recover.

Another problem I had was with the sentence structure. The majority of the book was made up of very short sentences and this meant that the writing didn’t flow very well – it made me feel quite jumpy. I’m sure this was intended for some reason, but I’m afraid it just irritated me.

Overall, this book was just too depressing for me to be able to recommend it, but other people seem to be inspired by Helen’s strength of character.

Opinion seems to be divided:

You really feel Helen’s pain… Monniblog

Moore’s writing is strong and poetic, but parts still fell flat for me. Nomadreader

Lisa Moore achieved something quite beautiful and completely perfect in the final pages….   Dovegreyreader

I’ll just have to acknowledge that writing which disturbs some readers like me is attractive to others. Kevin From Canada


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41 Comments

  1. Verity says:

    Hmm..sometimes there is a place for a really depressing read. Sometimes I like to make myself feel miserable in a safe way; that said, I read the new Lionel Shriver the other week and that made me feel miserable in not a good way – was left unsettled and depressed.

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, The Lionel Shriver annoyed me more than it depressed me, but I know what you mean. February just seems to have no objective but to depress the reader. I still feel a bit sad thinking about it. It is probably the sign it is a fantastic book, but I didn’t enjoy reading about her grief.

  2. Hmm, the example of her writing that you give does not appeal at all to me.

    Sad books I find difficult to read, actually. I don’t search them out, for sure!

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, I enjoy books with sad sections, but this book was one long depressing read. The annoying short sentences just added to my problems. Not for me!

  3. I’m reading this just now, Jackie, and so far loving it! Sometimes I need a really depressing read that I am wholeheartedly connected to emotionally. Saying that, I have been reading something comparatively cheerful at same time.

    Glad to see you are progressing through the Bookers so vigorously but sorry that you aren’t enjoying them all.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I did connect to Helen, but didn’t understand why it had to be so miserable :-( I’m not sure I’d have liked to pad it out over a longer period with some happy books. I just wanted to finish it as quickly as possible so I didn’t have to endure it any more.

      The good news is that I enjoyed Stars in the Bright Sky a lot more :-)

  4. Mome Rath says:

    Well, as far as I can tell from looking it up online, the rig didn’t split in half. But the rest of that excerpt looks like she’s reliving the accident pretty well — “something bad” happening, “a mounting and useless panic”, being “flooded with truth”. Depressing books can take their toll on you, so it’s probably good you watched something light afterwards. I’ve done the same thing.
    BTW, did you have a difficult a time with the end of Palace Walk? If so, you wouldn’t be the first — I wasn’t certain I would continue with the trilogy, though I’m glad I did.

    1. Jackie says:

      Mome Rath, It did seem to be a realistic portrayal of grief, but I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy the insight.

      I’m afraid that my sidebars aren’t quite accurate at the moment – I haven’t finished Palace Walk yet. I hope to finish it over the weekend and will let you know then.

  5. Shannon says:

    This one is next in my to read pile. I hope I don’t find it too depressing, I’m really looking forward to it, being the Canadian entry as well as being centred around something that is a part of Canadian history. Thankfully I have a chick lit book lined up to read after it!

    It sounds like this years Booker prize isn’t shaping up to be as exciting one would have thought!

    1. Jackie says:

      Shannon, Having a chick lit book to read after this one is a very good idea :-)

      This years Booker list is quite disappointing. I’m hoping that I’ll still find a gem, but those hopes are fading fast :-(

  6. LizF says:

    I thought that I would like this book because Dovegreyreader did and I enjoyed most of the books she recommended but I’m afraid the short sentences, the lack of much happening and the sheer misery meant that I just couldn’t face finishing it so I didn’t actually get to the last few pages that so impressed DGR!
    So far I am not greatly impressed with what I have read of the Booker Long list – the only one I have liked to any degree was The Long Song!

    1. Jackie says:

      LizF, Dovegreyreader and I seem to have opposing tastes in books. If she raves about a book then I can almost guarantee that I’ll hate it. I follow her blog hoping to discover a book that we both love, but the closest I’ve found is ones we both think are OK. I do wish that she’d post about books that she didn’t like as I’d be rushing out to get them!

      I enjoyed The Long Song, but it doesn’t feel like a Booker to me as I read it so long ago! Let’s hope we both find a Booker to enjoy soon.

  7. Amy says:

    Another miss, I’m sorry to see this isn’t going so well for you Jackie! The short sentences would annoy me too, but this is still a book I’m hoping to read at some point just because it is so local to me :) Good to know how depressing it is though…

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, I’m afraid to say that you’ll be disappointed if you’re after descriptions of your local area – apart from the specific details of the tragedy this book could have been set anywhere in the world. I hope you find the odd snippet to interest you though. :-)

      1. Amy says:

        Well darn! An Atlantic Canadian author at least! :P

  8. Meghan says:

    I can handle depressing, but I would definitely need to read a cheerful book directly afterwards and make sure my own life was going relatively okay in the meantime! Saying that, I don’t like the quote you’ve included here, so it looks like I’ll be skipping this one too. The longlist hasn’t produced very many winners this year, has it?

    1. Jackie says:

      Meghan, I have found the long list quite disappointing this year. I don’t think the judges have the same taste in books as me :-(

  9. Andi says:

    Sounds like my reaction to The Pilot’s Wife when I read it several years ago. I’m not sure if it was a timing thing or if it was really THAT SAD. I certainy think there is such a thing as too depressing. I prefer some ray of hope included or some reason for all the depressing content.

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, I haven’t read The Pilot’s Wife, so I’m afraid I can’t compare the two. I don’t think it is a timing issue, as I’m in a very positive mood at the moment – I’d hate to think how terrible it would be to read it if I was at all sad. Or perhaps that is the problem? Perhaps you need to be sad/grieving to appreicate this book?

  10. Steph says:

    Yikes! This just does not sound like the book for me. It really does sound unrelentingly sad, and I just am not in the mood for something like that, especially since you didn’t find it thought-provoking. I think that there is absolutely a place in my life for sad books, but I think I need that emotion to be layered amongst other things within the book.

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I don’t mind sad, but I think I need to gain something from being depressed. You’re right about the layers – perhaps I didn’t spot them in this book – perhaps I was just too sad to notice them!

  11. S. Krishna says:

    I have trouble with depressing reads. If this one makes the shortlist, I’ll pick it up but otherwise I’ll pass! Thanks for the review.

    1. Jackie says:

      S. Krishna, Sorry to break bad news to you, but I have a feeling this will make the short list.

  12. Sandy says:

    The problem is that there are many dark books out there that do have a point, and some hope to lift you back up. I know that we all get in moods where we are gluttons for punishment, but I’m not feeling it right now. Like Swapna said, only if this one makes it past the first hurdle would I think about reading it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I do think this will make the short list, so you might have to be prepared to find out why :-)

      I’ve just bought two comedy books today – this book was probably the tipping factor for my purchases, so it did at least have some effect on me :-)

  13. You confirmed my suspiciion. I had been recommended this a couple of years ago but didn’t read it precisely because I had thought it would be depressing. I love dark books but most sad books do not depress me. There are certain kinds, like this, that appear like they would.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I agree. There is a difference between dark and depressing and this book is just depressing. I think you are wise to avoid it.

  14. Ach, I started this at the weekend and got to about 20 pages and felt like killing myself. I was waiting for your review to see if it got any better but I feel depressed just thinking about it. I feel the same way about Trespass too – not much luck with these Bookers (although I loved Room – review coming soon).

    1. Jackie says:

      The Book Whisperer, LOL! It is nice to know that I am not alone in my thoughts and can save a few people from reading books they wouldn’t enjoy.
      The Tresspass does get better as it goes on, but it never gets really special.
      I look forward to seeing your Room review. :-)

  15. This one wasn’t my favorite either. I found it rather depressing, and the storyline I came to care the most about (her son and the woman he got pregnant – the names are escaping me now) seemed to dwindle out inexplicably. I agree that it was terribly depressing, and I found myself taking breaks while reading it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Carrie, I think I cared about Helen the most, but at least her son’s story was slightly happier. Such a depressing book :-(

  16. Tom C says:

    This year’s longlist has a few books which come into the “doubtful” category in my view and evidently this is one of them. I agree that short sentences throughout would be annoying. Add to that “depressing” and you’ve convinced me to give this one a miss!

    1. Jackie says:

      Tom, The long list has certainly produced a very mixed bag! There is something for everyone, but that also means that there is something to annoy everyone too ;-)

  17. diane says:

    I read some review on this one, and for me, i just could not imagine enjoying this book. You sort of confirmed that as well. Sorry it did not work for you.

    1. Jackie says:

      diane, I can’t imagine anyone enjoying this book, but I guess some people will benefit from learning that others have the same feelings of grief as them?

  18. I’m with you on this book being depressing. It made me really sad, and contemplative, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing… but, I don’t know. This one was almost ‘too sad’ if you know what I mean?

    It’s only the second book of the long list that I’ve read, and considering I didn’t finish the first one (The Long Song), I don’t think I’m doing that well. At least I’m reading Room now, which seems to have rave reviews from the blogging wonderland!

    Hope you enjoy the rest of the longlist though.

    1. Jackie says:

      anothercookiecrumbles, I know exactly what you mean. This book was TOO sad.

      I’m sure you’ll love Room and I think that you might enjoy The Betrayal, but I’m not sure the rest of the long list will be that appealing to you :-( Hopefully I’ll find another hidden gem though.

  19. Kathleen says:

    This book sounds like it definitely had an impact on you albeit a negative one. These kinds of books are always difficult to get through.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, You’re right it did have an impact on me and it could be argued that is a sign it was a good book, but I’m afraid I prefer to get a little enjoyment from reading a book, not just be depressed by it. I guess it all depends on your tolerance for misery and the type of book you enjoy. :-)

  20. Oof. I agree that sometimes you want to sink your teeth into a truly depressing book, but not if there’s not some other pay-off (beautiful writing, or compelling plot).

    1. Jackie says:

      Lija, This book could be said to have beautiful writing – I guess it depends on what you like reading. Unfortunately it didn’t have anything for me to enjoy :-(

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