Bernie, a divorced mother of three, lives in a converted shed – albeit with a great view – in Byron Bay. She works part-time as a journalist for the local paper. Bernie has an amicable relationship with her ex-husband and strong female friendships. Her life is steady, normal, recognisable.
While writing her first novel, she gets in contact with an old friend from university. Jack is married, has two children, and has never forgotten Bernie. A tortuous, intimate, passionate – yet frustratingly sexless – affair follows, fuelled by the exchange of hundreds of confessional text messages and emails.
Jack's inability to be physically available to support Bernie becomes clear when her father dies and she is threatened by her neighbour. When Jack ends their relationship, Bernie is emotionally destroyed and wracked with guilt. She seeks solace in a string of increasingly dangerous and twisted sexual encounters. What begins as an innocent search for validation on internet dating sites leads – frighteningly quickly – to sexting, pornography, brief liaisons in seedy motels, group sex, and swingers' parties. She hides her new lifestyle from her family and friends and retreats into nameless, addictive sex.
Losing February describes, in sometimes disturbingly graphic detail, what happens when a strong, energetic, capable woman in her early 40s completely loses her sense of self and mistakes grief for punishment.
About the Author
Susanna Freymark works full time as a journalist and education editor for News NSW. She holds a Master of Arts in creative writing from UTS and is a qualified teacher. She spent two years teaching in a remote Aboriginal community in South Australia and lived in London for fifteen years where she owned a bookshop. Susanna's short stories have been published in the UTS Anthology and numerous other publications. She lives in Sydney, is married and has three children.
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Worth reading Freymark's perspective of how we are adept at using addictions, in her case, sex, to distract us from our pain. It's incredibly sad that her deep love for Jack cannot be realised. That aspect fascinated me. I found the detailed sex liaisons became too sordid for my taste but certainly Freymark spares the reader no mercy in terms of how deep her depravity ran. Her saving grace is her respect for Jack's wife. It's a very real and confronting book.
Losing February straddles the thin divide between truth and fiction with the author Susanna Freymark admitting the events of this raw and frank novel closely parallels her own experience during a difficult period of her life.
Bernie is in her early forties, a writer who she lives on the outskirts of Byron Bay, content in the shed she calls home. Her sexless marriage has recently ended and she shares amicable custody of her children with her ex husband. When a past love comes back into her life, Bernie re-discovers desire but Jack is married and their tortured, emotional affair triggers a disturbing slide into a world of sexual addiction in her desperate search for the meaning of love.
Losing February is a confronting read, exposing a woman's grief at love lost and dreams unrealised. Her heartbreak at being rejected after a tumultuous almost affair sends Bernie on a search for validation in all the wrong places. Exhibiting many of the classic signs of a midlife crisis, she looks outside of herself for what she needs instead of facing the more difficult truths of her everyday failures. While the admittedly explicit sexual encounters in this novel attract attention it is what is driving Bernie to such extremes that I think the author hopes we acknowledge.
Surprisingly I found several of Bernie's actions understandable, though her path is not one I would choose to take. It's acknowledgement as a desirable woman that she pursues through the anonymous medium of online sex chat, and while essentially hollow, the interactions sates her ego temporarily. When the anonymous adoration isn't enough anymore she pushes further - meeting the men who pursue her, and then when the thrill inevitably fades, takes even more risks, addicted to the tenuous high of being wanted. The divide between sex and love blurred by desire and acceptance is something many women struggle with and Bernie clearly illustrates that the confusion remains past adolescence.
Losing February is a glimpse into the complexities of love and desire, anger and grief, repression and letting go. This is an intriguing if sometimes disconcerting read, readers uncomfortable with graphic sex and language should probably steer clear but I think an audience of women mid thirties and older will be able to identify with the themes in this novel and Bernie's difficult journey.
Number Of Pages: 288
Published: 1st February 2013
Dimensions (cm): 23.3 x 15.3 x 2.2
Weight (kg): 0.358