All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Losing February – Susanna Freymark

on March 6, 2013

Losing FebruaryLosing February
Susanna Freymark
Pan Macmillan
2013, 275p
Copy courtesy of the publisher/The Reading

Bernie is in her 40s and amicably divorced from her husband Simon. Together they share custody of their three children and live a relatively complication-free life in New South Wales’ north coast. That is until Bernie becomes reacquainted with Jack, someone she knew back in her university days. It seems that both of them had feelings for each other but the timing was never quite right. And even now, some 20+ years later, it’s still the same. Bernie and Jack fall in love, but the timing isn’t right, especially seeing as Jack is a local politician in NSW and he’s also married.

Their affair is love without sex – they talk on the phone, they email, they message, they sneak away for several weekends together but their relationship is never consummated. When Jack tells Bernie that it cannot continue, that he cannot keep doing this, it sends Bernie into a dark place. She begins trawling online dating sites, desperately looking for something, anything, that makes her feel. She indulges in cyber sex and “sexting” with strangers and then graduates to meeting them in hotel rooms. Here she can get something that she never could with Jack – men who want to have sex with her and aren’t constrained. But it’s not enough, nothing ever seems to be enough and Bernie continues pushing the line, doing whatever it takes to make her feel desired and wanted.

I read Shelleyrae’s review of this one a little while ago and I have to say that it interested me. When The Reading Room offered me a copy, I jumped at the chance to read it. But that was a little while ago now and I have to admit, I’ve been putting this review off. I had no idea how to get started, how to get the jumble of thoughts in my head out through the keyboard into a post. It’s quite easy to review a work of fiction – none of it is real. It’s quite easy to review a work of non-fiction, it’s all real. But I do find it very difficult to review a fiction book based on someone’s life. How much of it is real? Is the bit that I’m shaking my head and snorting at in disbelief, real? I didn’t know how much of this book to take as elaboration and how much of it had actually happened. When you read the author’s bio, she quite obviously has a lot in common with Bernie, the main character in this book.

This book is a sometimes difficult read, it’s very confronting. I think that to be a woman in her forties and divorced would be likewise, especially when you’ve found someone, connected with them and they’re still married and have no intention of leaving their wife. Bernie and Jack’s relationship may not have been physical but it was extremely intense – it bordered on obsessive and at times, I felt like I didn’t quite ‘get it’. It was too intense for me and I felt like I wasn’t given enough to really understand the depth of their feelings. I could partially relate to Bernie when it ended and she began to seek solace online. The desire to be found attractive, to have power over people, to make them want her, would be a powerful lure, especially as Jack never gave in to his desire to have sex with Bernie during their short…affair? I’m not even sure what to call it. Online, Bernie gets the gratification that she needs, that she is an attractive woman, that there are men out there who are quite willing, perhaps even desperate to have sex with her. Playing around online with dating sites and emailing and texting is not particularly dangerous behaviour and there are plenty of people, men and women, who do it.

However, meeting these people in real life is quite different. It really made me squirm each time she made a new date in a hotel, there was a little voice in my head that just kept saying “raped and murdered! raped and murdered!”. Luckily nothing bad ever really happened to Bernie, in fact in most scenarios she seemed more in control than the men, but it seemed such reckless behaviour, and I actually thought of her kids. Where she lives is a small community (at one point she sees a police officer who is sure he knows her and Bernie figures out it’s from online) and I kept thinking, what if one of them stumbled across her activities? What if one of the men she met up with, knew her children? I half expected one of the men to turn out to be her ex-husband!

The best way that I can describe this book was kind of like car-crash reading. It’s like when you drive past an accident, you don’t want to look but you can’t not look either. I found it really compelling and read it in one sitting but it was also a quite uncomfortable read. I wanted to give Bernie a bit of a shake and tell her to wake up to herself a bit. Stop living in a shed, stop meeting creepers off the Internet and try and find an actual decent guy and if you can’t do that, then just focus on your kids. Stop looking for validation of your existence with virtual strangers and actually take it from the people closest to you.


Book #53 of 2013


Losing February is book #26 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

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