Author: Susanna Freymark
From the very time I read the media release about this book, and then reading some other reviews; most notably Shelleyrae’s at Book’d Out; I knew that I wanted to read this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew I wanted to find out. I had the opportunity to interview Susanna Freymark and question her about the book, which was fantastic, but also could have been better had I already read the book. In the end it intrigued me further to make sure it moved up the To Be Read pile.
Finally I could stand it no longer, and I started on Losing February. From the release, the interview and the reviews I had read I knew that this book drew on actual experiences from Susanna’s life, which always leaves me wondering how much is exaggerated, how much is fiction and how much of this is totally true to life and was lived through by the author. I love my fiction but a based on or taken from true story always lends an added depth that can’t help but make me think and involve me further than I otherwise would be, this isn’t always such a good thing.
Losing February is the story of quite a dark time in Bernie’s life, a time of devastation and spiraling self-destruction which got more and more heartbreaking the further I read.
The thing I am finding most difficult about writing this review is that in all my long drives to and from work I have been thinking about what I would write, how I would start it. You would think that would make it easier wouldn’t you, but not this time. My opinions and my thoughts have changed dramatically since the beginning of the book.
The opening chapters introduce us to Bernie, a passionate and energetic divorcee in her early 40’s. She gets on well with her ex-husband, has fabulous female friends, enjoys her job and is aiming to turn the position at the local paper into something more permanent as well as working on her first novel. All seems to be going relatively well except for the acrimonious relationship with her neighbours.
The beginning of Bernie’s downward spiral started with an innocent email that fast accelerated into a runaway train on a collision course with heartbreak. In her debut novel she uses part of a poem written for her by a male friend from university, so in the interest of doing the right thing she places an ad in his hometown paper to try and find him for permission to use his poem.
The two start to correspond, completely innocently to begin with, and get to know one another again. Sparks fly and they navigate into dangerous waters with phenomenal speed.
Who of us don’t have a what if partner in our past? That special someone that was a could have been, an if the timing was different, a connection that was never pursued, explored or sometimes even recognised. The beginning of Losing February really resonated with me for those reasons.
What starts as an innocent catch up between two old friends moves away from where are you, what have you been doing with yourself quite quickly as the catching up turns to reminiscing about the past and the time that they knew each other, which can’t help but encourage long buried emotions to resurface and here the trouble begins.
Bernie is divorced, leaving her free to embark on new adventures but she finds herself in a situation where that is impossible. Losing February is Bernie’s story, and written in the first person, so ultimately we are centred on her and the other characters remain on the periphery even when they are quite major players in the narrative. We can never know what goes through their minds because we only see them from Bernie’s perspective but I have a few theories about Jack…
Susanna tackles some very tough issues related to online interactions and cheating, and how easily a woman can rate herself based on outside stimuli, things she can’t control. So to negate that she takes a wild ride into things she can control, even if it seems that she’s fast spiraling out of control with how bad some of her decisions are.
Though I could relate, to an extent, to a lot of what went on in her head I could never see myself in some of the situations Bernie discovered herself in. Her devastation led to some extremely self-destructive behaviours that she’s lucky never went worse than they did.
Also, living in a small town the risk of discovery increases and this was something she only had to deal with once.
There are some extremely graphic scenes in this book, they are in stark contrast to the loving and tender moments that exude intimacy and border on sexual but never actually consummate. There are scenes that physically affected me in their confronting nature, it hurt me to read them but they were never gratuitous, they were required to demonstrate the depth of desolation in Bernie’s soul.
The c word popped up quite a bit which I’m never a fan of but in this instance it didn’t affect me nearly as much as the scenes the word was used in. It was a much more appropriate use of the word than I have previously come across.
Freymark’s writing was honest and a no frills approach, a realistic look at the dangers of the heart – and the heart broken – and the grueling journey back from the edge of self-destruction.
I think this could also be used as an educational read for anyone considering looking up that What If partner of the past… sometimes these things are best left right there, in the past.
Losing February is a debut worth the hype, and well worth the wait. I now wish I really had picked it up the day it landed on my desk. And in hindsight, sometimes it’s better to keep the lines blurry and not know exactly which bits are fiction and which are fact.
If you are not totally turned off by graphic sexual encounters and the c word I would recommend picking it up. This is an in-depth look at the trials of love without sex and sex without love, and an important advertisement for why it’s always best that the two go hand in hand.