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February [Hardcover]

Lisa Moore
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 15 2009 088784202X 978-0887842023 Canadian First

Winner of Canada Reads 2013 and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize

In 1982, the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland during a Valentine's Day storm. All eighty-four men aboard died. February is the story of Helen O'Mara, one of those left behind when her husband, Cal, drowns on the rig. It begins in the present-day, more than twenty-five years later, but spirals back again and again to the "February" that persists in Helen's mind and heart.

Writing at the peak of her form, her steadfast refusal to sentimentalize coupled with an almost shocking ability to render the precise details of her characters' physical and emotional worlds, Lisa Moore gives us her strongest work yet. Here is a novel about complex love and cauterizing grief, about past and present and how memory knits them together, about a fiercely close community and its universal struggles, and finally about our need to imagine a future, no matter how fragile, before we truly come home. This is a profound, gorgeous, heart-stopping work from one of our best writers.


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Product Description

Quill & Quire

Lisa Moore’s second novel, following 2005’s Giller-shortlisted Alligator, employs similar time and perspective shifts to paint a portrait of Helen, a woman shattered by the drowning death of her husband, Cal, in the historically true sinking of the Ocean Ranger off the coast of Newfoundland in the early 1980s. Now in her mid-50s and reconciled to loneliness, Helen sews prom and wedding dresses for a living and cares for her grandchildren. After having spent half a lifetime picking up the pieces after Cal’s death, she has taken the major step of renovating the house, and finds herself unexpectedly stirred by the presence of her carpenter, Barry. Another event has also rippled the relative calm: her son has announced that a woman he had a fling with is pregnant. 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. The predictable conclusion, where Helen and Barry come together at a fireworks display, merges past and present in heavy-handed symbolism: “the light flew into their faces as silent as something at the bottom of the ocean.” As well, Moore has embraced the current vogue for removing the quotation marks from dialogue, which has the effect of robbing the characters of their immediacy: they are always filtered through the narrator’s sieve. The book’s most unexpected, poignant moment features Helen sitting in a bar waiting to meet the man she has courted online over the past few months. When he never shows, Helen comes to the sudden, ego-crushing realization that he must have fled after seeing her. It’s a devastating, crystalline moment that would have worked as a short story – a genre at which Moore excels – but its impact is ultimately diluted by the novel’s amplitude.

Review

...exquisitely mindful...All is suffering, certainly, but it's just as true that all is also pretty funny. Moore gets this. She gets life...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 the point of literature and maybe even the point of being human. (Globe and Mail 2009-09-01)

...here is writing that examines the richness of the everyday with an incredibly keen eye and renders it without sentimentality but with profound empathy...Like standing in the February winter wind, reading this novel is harrowing, almost painful, but once you step out of it, you appreciate the warmth in your world that much more. (matrix 2010-01-10)

...here is writing that examines the richness of the everyday with an incredibly keen eye and renders it without sentimentality but with profound empathy. (matrix 2009-10-01)

...Moore has established with her second novel a distinctive voice in Canadian literature. Language in Moore's capable hands is often deceptively spare, revealing for the careful reader layers of acute insight. Her writing in February is characterized by a raw, stream-of-consciousness intensity... (Literary Review of Canada 2009-12-09)

...Moore, whose previous novel, Alligator (2006), won a Commonwealth Writers' Prize, renders sensations with the precision of a Vermeer. (Booklist 2010-01-10)

A solid, unflinching, unsentimental study of grief...Moore's descriptive powers, her enviable ability to highlight defining elements of character (either individual or societal) by making perceptive observations, are, as always, in evidence. (Daily Telegram 2009-09-01)

Although Moore does a good job of depicting remembered incidents the novel is best in its intimate rendering of thought and feeling. (Express 2010-02-10)

An intense and absorbing read. (Coventry Telegraph 2010-03-10)

Canadian writer Lisa Moore's second novel solidifies her reputation as a gifted writer whose prose exhibits an urgency, precision, and sensitivity worthy of the legacy of Virginia Woolf. (The World 2009-09-01)

Complex yet clear, compelling and profound, the style is a joy to read and Lisa Moore's story-spinning gift is great. Her people become our people, her richly described settings our own. (Atlantic Books Today 2009-10-01)

It has been a joy indeed to discover Lisa Moore. Despite her great success with a previous novel and two collections of short fiction, February is the first book I have read by this talented Canadian writer. I shall soon be reading the rest. (Gabriel Weston Daily Telegraph 2010-01-10)

Lisa Moore is an astonishing writer. She brings to her pages what we are always seeking in fiction and only find the best of it: a magnetizing gift for revealing how the earth feels, looks, tastes, smells, and an unswerving instinct for what's important in life. (Richard Ford 2006-09-01)

Lisa Moore's work is passionate, gritty, lucid and, beautiful. She has a great gift. (Anne Enright 2009-04-09)

Loneliness is hard to write about without become maudlin or cliched. But Moore never errs on the side of sentimentality...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. (National Post 2009-09-01)

Luminous. (More 2009-09-01)

Moore deftly weaves together the present...and the past, evoking memory and grief in pitch-perfect detail. (New Yorker 2010-03-10)

Moore never errs on the side of sentimentality...Loneliness is hard to write about without becoming maudlin or cliched. But Moore seems to understand this very human facility, describing the unconscious ways we sometimes try to avoid feeling overwhelmed by it...Moore shows how life's everyday tasks and encounters create a comforting continuity that eventually wears down emotional pain to allow forward movement...You'll be surprised at this novel's ability to uplift. (Ottawa Citizen 2009-09-01)

Moore pens another triumph...emotional tension, coupled with an acute eye for regional setting and dialect, has long been a hallmark of Moore's work...the hauntingly beautiful February, is likely to turn some heads and hearts as well. (Chronicle Herald 2009-09-01)

Moore's writing resembles poetry...She expertly captures her characters' physical surroundings in sharp-edged fragments of colour and sensation...Helen comes across as a perfectly ordinary woman...But that's what [February] is about: a perfectly ordinary woman whose life is profoundly changed by an extraordinary event. This is a marvellous book. (Winnipeg Free Press 2009-09-01)

Soaring. (Chatelaine 2009-09-01)

There is no one else in the country who can touch Lisa Moore's elegant rendering of language...She's distinctive, and what she does with language is nothing less than dazzling, and then there is her uncanny ability to inhabit every pore and sinew of her endearingly human characters...What she does with language is pure art. (Salty Ink 2010-02-10)

This mesmerising book is full of tears, and is a graceful meditation on how to survive life's losses. (Marie Claire 2010-02-10)

...a stark tale of cauterizing grief, one that left me spellbound in admiration...a well-conceived work of the imagination... (Sun Times (Owen Sound) 2009-09-01)

[February] is what great prose should be...a work of art...a moving narrative of risk, love, loss, and surviving... (Newfoundland Quarterly 2009-09-01)

Moore...is one of the smartest, sharpest minds among Canada’s younger fiction writers, and she deftly averts the saccharine and hyperbolic in this, her second novel. (Kaya Fraser Matrix Magazine 2010-09-05)

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly amazed April 15 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read February two years ago and found that for me it was just about the best story ever--a lot to do with raising children on your own--it taken place over many years and is not sentimental though the premise is catastrophic. It was the normal events of everyday life that struck me as so realistic. It made me feel I hadn't done so badly after all. I recently ordered a copy from Amazon as wanted to give it to my grown-up children and also to reread it myself. For me a wonderful read!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautifully Told Tale of Loss and Grief Feb. 19 2013
By Alison S. Coad TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Lisa Moore's "February" is a fictional work based on a real-life tragedy: On the evening of Valentine's Day 1982, the Ocean Ranger, an oil rig off the Newfoundland coast, sustained catastrophic damage in a winter storm and throughout the night and into the next day, slowly sank, killing all 84 men aboard. Moore has taken this event as the starting point in the tale of Helen, the widow of one of the men who died that night; at the time, she had three children ranging in age from 10 to 8, and she was pregnant with another child, so that in the following years, she had four children to raise on her own. The story ranges between the time of her marriage to Cal in 1972 up through 2009, and essentially tells the story of her life and how she does, and does not, come to terms with her husband's death and her grief.... The story is very specific to this one individual, but in such a way that the reader finds global resonance with the characters and what they go through. Anybody who has ever lost a loved one will relate to this book, and Moore's ability to describe complex and difficult emotions with both clarity and poetry is terrific. The story is not told in linear form, but jumps back and forth between various years, and that technique also works well in terms of drawing the reader into Helen's life; by the time the disaster itself is described, one is fully invested in Helen's reactions to it. This book won the 2013 Canada Reads challenge, an annual project from CBC that aims to have all of English-speaking Canada read one specific book; highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars February Lisa Moore Jan. 23 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Prior to reading Moore'e novel, I read the non-fiction account of the Ocean Ranger disaster which helped immensely. Moore immersed Helen and her family into that setting and she realistically unfolded the challenging life that resulted because of it. Moore allowed me to travel with Helen and her family through their varied challenges. Naturally Helen's challenges were central but John's, Cathy's, Lulu's and Gabrielle's had to be appreciated to understand fully the horrid effects of the Ocean Ranger disaster on one family .

On another level, this novel could be greatly appreciated by any widow who lost her partner when her children were still very young. Moore's handling of that situation was carried through well.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite new novel Oct. 23 2009
By V Woolf
Format:Hardcover
I find this Moore's most compelling book yet. I've loved her short stories, her voice, her compassion, wit and humour. She's a writer's writer, and her language is fully alive. This new novel is just stunning, a heart-breaker, wise and very wonderful. Why on earth didn't this receive every prize there is? Wasn't even short listed for the GG, Giller, to my knowledge. Read this book. It will make your life better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Solitude, she thinks, is a time-release drug... March 8 2013
By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
"...it enters the system slowly and you can become addicted. It's not an addiction, it is a craft."

On Valentine's Day 1982, the 'Ocean Ranger', an assumed-to-be unsinkable oil rig, sank during a vicious storm out in the North Atlantic. Thirty years later the tragic events of that night still resonate deeply with the affected communities of Newfoundland. Families lost fathers, brothers, sons and lovers during a night when hope and prayers for a miracle turned into despair and grief: all eighty four crew were lost, either on board or in the ice cold water. Newfoundland award winning author, Lisa Moore's 2009 novel FEBRUARY fictionalizes the deep physical and emotional shockwaves in the aftermath of the disaster by telling the story of one widow, her profound grief and the long-lasting scars on her soul while putting all her energy into bringing up her family and healing herself.

Lisa Moore's heroine, Helen, thirty at the time of the disaster, was robbed of her husband Cal, the love of her young life, the breadwinner for their young family with three small children with a fourth on the way. Much of the story is set in 2008, yet with Helen's mind often wandering back to that fateful night in 1982, the innocent years prior to the disaster and the many years since. Helen reflects on her emotional state of mind at the time as "being outside": "The best way to describe what she felt: She was banished. Banished from everyone and from herself." Still, the daily life had to go on while grief and pain were kept locked into the inner folds of her mind. "Helen wanted the children to think that she was on the inside, with them. The outside was an ugly truth that she planned to keep to herself.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps I wasn't the target audience Aug. 13 2011
By Paolo TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
On 15th February 1982 an offshore rig, the Ocean Ranger, whilst drilling an exploration well off the east coast of Newfoundland, sank in bad weather killing all 84 crew aboard. Their mayday call was picked up by the back-up vessel the Seaforth Highlander who were ill-prepared to deal with a rescue in such weather conditions and in the end they were left to watch the crew in the water succumb to hypothermia and drown.

In February 1982 Cal, the husband of Helen the main and unlikely protagonist of the novel, is aboard the Ocean Ranger. Helen has three children and is pregnant with a fourth at the time of the accident and as the story bounces backwards and forwards in time one soon grasps that there are three narrative threads in play. The first is of Helen's grief, contemporaneous with the accident and in the decades that follow. How she has to raise four children by herself and how she tries to learn every little detail about the sinking of the rig; she likes to imagine Cal playing cards when the Ocean Ranger goes down, she doesn't like to think of him knowing too long before and have to suffer the panic. Helen is also persuaded by her sister to renovate her house and the stirring of her physical and emotional desires by the continuing presence of Barry, Helen's carpenter forms the second thread.

Finally her son John followed Cal's footsteps into the oil industry first by working in the pipelines looking for weaknesses that could lead to leaks. John soon moves into a job as an advisor to the industry whose main role is to increase efficiency by making recommendations to discard unnecessary or redundant safety procedures, many of which came into force following the sinking of the Ocean Ranger.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Gripping story
Published 1 month ago by Jean McAllister
3.0 out of 5 stars Very depressing
I suppose it is well written but it tends to make one feel a bit depressed while reading it. Just okay for me.
Published 4 months ago by Robin Lady
1.0 out of 5 stars I've read two of Ms. Moore's books and liked neither
This book wasn't as good as it could have been. The characters didn't ring true. They simply came off as whiney. To spend 25 years dwelling in the past seemed far-fetched. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Pat Bingley
5.0 out of 5 stars February by Lisa Moore
Loved the book; excellent author!!! It was a quick read and very interesting! Would highly recommend this book to others!
Published 9 months ago by Susan Carrigan-Ralph
4.0 out of 5 stars FEBRUARY
I enjoyed the book very much but found the changeover from some chapters a little confusion.
The author is very thorough with her descriptions of the events and life as it was... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Paul Archambault
2.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed
I prepared to enjoy a tale of loss and putting your life back together again after a disastor. All I read were a series of barbs about how everybody let the main character down. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Dave the Rave
4.0 out of 5 stars Collateral Damage
Rather roiling account of the aftermath of an oil rig tragedy. How sudden such deaths affect those left to mourn. Portrayed are the classic stages of the bereaved. Read more
Published 11 months ago by murrie redman
5.0 out of 5 stars i LOVED IT
i WAS MESMERISED FROM THE BEGINNING. sUCH SENSTIVITY, PATHOS AND JOY. iT WAS A PLEASURE TO READ. i AM LOOKING FORWARD TO READING MORE OF mOORE;S WORK. Read more
Published 11 months ago by libby
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, and real.
A wonderful read, and anyone who has ever experienced the East coast of Canada and the people who call it their home will be able to appreciate why you keep wanting to return. Read more
Published 14 months ago by anniet
2.0 out of 5 stars How on earth did it get short-listed?
There is plenty of scope for writing an interesting story related to the Ocean Ranger tragedy. How Ms. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Max
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