Midwinter Break

Midwinter Break

A retired couple, Gerry and Stella Gilmore, fly from their home in Scotland to Amsterdam for a long weekend - a holiday to refresh the senses, to do some sightseeing, and generally to take stock of what remains of their lives. Their relationship seems safe, easy, familiar. But over the course of the four days we discover the deep uncertainties that exist between them. Gerr...

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Title:Midwinter Break
Author:Bernard MacLaverty
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Midwinter Break Reviews

  • Karen

    MIDWINTER BREAK BY BERNARD MACLAVERTY

    Spoiler Alert--You may not want to continue reading this review before you read the book.

    This is a story written with compassion and love. It is about a married retired couple named Gerry and Stella. There is a lot of peace and tranquility in terms of the way Bernard Maclaverty has written this lovely novel. The two main character's Gerry and Stella are from Ireland who now live in Scotland. Gerry used to be an architect and Stella was a school teacher. They

    MIDWINTER BREAK BY BERNARD MACLAVERTY

    Spoiler Alert--You may not want to continue reading this review before you read the book.

    This is a story written with compassion and love. It is about a married retired couple named Gerry and Stella. There is a lot of peace and tranquility in terms of the way Bernard Maclaverty has written this lovely novel. The two main character's Gerry and Stella are from Ireland who now live in Scotland. Gerry used to be an architect and Stella was a school teacher. They are in their twilight years of their lives and marriage. They have one son named Michael and one grandchild named Toby who reside in Canada.

    Stella and Gerry decide to take a four day trip to Amsterdam where Stella who is very religious looks for a sanctuary to live. Stella and Gerry both experience flashbacks of the day Stella was shot in the stomach while pregnant with their only son by the IRA in Ireland. The story of that day is written seamlessly into the narrative. The bullet did not harm her unborn child since it was a gun shot wound that entered Stella's stomach and exited without harming her baby. Stella is knocked to the ground and makes a vow to God that she will devote her life to serving him if her unborn child and herself live. Stella and Michael miraculously are not injured from the gunshot wound. The outcome is that Stella can not have any more children.

    Gerry is drinking whisky and water every time he thinks Stella is not aware of what he is doing. Stella is aware of Gerry's alcoholism and her reason for going to Amsterdam is to keep the vow that she made to God and to leave her marriage to Gerry. Stella is interested in joining and living with a group in the Netherlands called the Beguines. The Beguines are a member of the dutch sisterhood, formed in the twelfth century, and not bound by vows. When Stella looks into this sisterhood, she finds out that the last sister in this group died in 1971. There still is a group that exists however you have to be between age 30 and 65 and it is costly.

    Stella has to make a decision and she tells Gerry that she wants to sell their home and get two separate places to live when they return home. There are many things to love about this book. I loved the courage that Stella exudes by making a decision to want more out of life than just settling to stay in a marriage where she is no longer happy. I loved both characters and the realism that is written about their relationship. Gerry really admires Stella and is a kind person, he has a drinking problem. The author is talented in weaving a contemporary story about real people with real problems.

    I don't want to tell what decision is made. Does Stella and Gerry stay together or do they separate? Does Gerry think he has a problem with alcohol? Is Gerry willing to admit he has a problem? I think the author did an excellent job of describing the different countries. It is a quiet but powerful story that is realistic and timely. It takes place in winter but you can smell the flowers and hear the birds.

    Thank you to Net Galley, Bernard Maclaverty and W.W. Norton & Company Publishing for providing me with my digital copy for a fair and honest review.

  • Gumble's Yard

    This book is the story of a midwinter break taken in Amsterdam by a retired couple Gerry and Stella – Gerry and Stella are a Northern Irish Catholic Couple now living in Glasgow.

    The title however also conveyed to me the ess

    This book is the story of a midwinter break taken in Amsterdam by a retired couple Gerry and Stella – Gerry and Stella are a Northern Irish Catholic Couple now living in Glasgow.

    The title however also conveyed to me the essence of the book – Stella is conscious that she is in the midwinter of her life (their only son living in Canada with his wife and son), contemplates a break in their relationship (driven by Gerry’s alcoholism) and a move to a religious community (due to her sense of an unfilled promise made to God years earlier).

    A beautifully understated novel and a brilliant portrait of a long relationship, a relationship forever changed by one event, but which is then worked out over years, a relationship of two people simultaneously so close that they sub-consciously anticipate each other’s wants, thoughts and needs and yet seemingly irreconcilably distant each with their own thoughts, desires and secrets.

  • Paromjit

    This is a profoundly moving and perceptive examination of the anatomy of a long marriage. Gerry and Stella Gilmore are retired, now living in Scotland, and facing the midwinter of their lives and their marriage. Gerry, once an architect, a mediocre one in his estimation, cannot get through a day without his drinking but his love for his wife is plain to see. Stella was a teacher, but her son and grandson live in Canada, leaving her feeling she needs more in her life and Gerry is not enough. They

    This is a profoundly moving and perceptive examination of the anatomy of a long marriage. Gerry and Stella Gilmore are retired, now living in Scotland, and facing the midwinter of their lives and their marriage. Gerry, once an architect, a mediocre one in his estimation, cannot get through a day without his drinking but his love for his wife is plain to see. Stella was a teacher, but her son and grandson live in Canada, leaving her feeling she needs more in her life and Gerry is not enough. They fly to Amsterdam, ostensibly for a long weekend, with Stella harbouring a hidden agenda. They explore the city both as a couple and separately. Stella feels the best of her was inspired by her Catholic faith, and she is in search of a more spiritual religiously guided life. On a previous visit to the city, she encountered the Dutch order of the Beguines. Gerry has never taken her religious faith seriously, and as she contemplates a different future, an honest look at each other and their marriage is inevitable.

    Gerry and Stella have an ease with each other that speaks of an intimate, close and long relationship, enjoying an active sex life with each other. Along with this are their incommunicative silences, secrets, deceptions and everyday frustrations with each other. The compromises that go into the reality of a marriage are beautifully captured. Both remember events from the Irish troubles, that Stella was personally affected by when she was pregnant. Her body has the physical and emotional scars from what happened to her. Her focus on a religiously devoted life is driven by a pledge Stella is haunted by and feels she failed to honour. This becomes clear as Stella becomes aware that the future she is planning may be out of her reach. What is to become of her? What choices will Stella make? Will their marriage survive?

    The story takes place over the 4 days of the Amsterdam break. MacLaverty writes with depth and sensitivity about the strengths and frailties of a marriage entering its twilight years. His psychological understanding of his characters and relationships has a truly authentic feel and is what makes this book such a superb accomplishment. His approach is understated, this is not a novel with drama or fast pacing. If that is what you are looking for, you will be disappointed. A thought provoking and brilliant read. Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC.

  • Diane S ☔

    Stella and Gerry, married for forty years, in the retirement years of their life, one son, one grandson. They take a weekend trip, leaving Scotland, and heading to Amsterdam. Gerry thinks it is just for time away, change of pace, but Stella has other motives, a discontent in her life and a spiritual promise made during a time of heartbreaking distress. Gerry drinks too much, is often dismissive of her faith, and Stella wants there to be something more before her life ends.

    A quiet novel, a reflec

    Stella and Gerry, married for forty years, in the retirement years of their life, one son, one grandson. They take a weekend trip, leaving Scotland, and heading to Amsterdam. Gerry thinks it is just for time away, change of pace, but Stella has other motives, a discontent in her life and a spiritual promise made during a time of heartbreaking distress. Gerry drinks too much, is often dismissive of her faith, and Stella wants there to be something more before her life ends.

    A quiet novel, a reflective one as we are privy to the thoughts of both Gerry and Stella as they look back in time. Unresolved issues, misunderstandings, and where each see their lives and each other. Touching novel, maybe because I too will be married for 35 years, husband retired, more time behind us than before, I felt this book and the struggles of this pair. Hard to be married for a long time, without having something unresolved. The things that don't get said, present here in this novel, things Gerry doesn't say to Stella, and should. Her hopes for her life and what she needs from Gerry to continue their lives together.

    As they visit different parts of Amsterdam, eat at various places, they take stock of their true feelings. Beautiful, beautiful language.

    "The end of the daylight striking the glass obliquely created a glittering, grisaille effect. Like ground glass, a layer of dust activated by almost horizontal light transformed the window into Waterford crystal. No expense soared for the Irish pub of Amsterdam. The admission and exclusion of light."

    Wonderfully descriptive, and an elegant and honest look at a couple in their twilight years

    ARC from edelweiss..

  • Elyse

    Bernard MacLaverty is an Irish author - new to me. His writing is impeccable and intimate. He paints a clear portrait of a retired middle age married couple.

    However, although I appreciate the authors understanding of this relationship - which we observed up close and personal - I didn't actually enjoy the plot or the themes in this novel. My own personal beliefs are so very different from both Stella and Gerry - I didn't have much empathy for them.

    I've read many books about married couples- you

    Bernard MacLaverty is an Irish author - new to me. His writing is impeccable and intimate. He paints a clear portrait of a retired middle age married couple.

    However, although I appreciate the authors understanding of this relationship - which we observed up close and personal - I didn't actually enjoy the plot or the themes in this novel. My own personal beliefs are so very different from both Stella and Gerry - I didn't have much empathy for them.

    I've read many books about married couples- young couples, aging couples..etc. that I have related to. This is not one of them.

    Ambivalence between Gerry and Stella embody them as a couple. Neither one seems happy yet they are 'connected-at-the-hip' through years of habit and familiarity.

    They are both off in there own heads - having their secretive conversations with their own inner voice about one another. Their communication skills do not empower each other. The independent choices of comforts they each reach for were bleak and gloomy. In my opinion drinking and religion (both) - if obsessive -can disempower a relationship. Gerry liked to drink. Stella liked religion - Both of their passions were causing harm to their relationship.

    I felt the whole theme around religion and drinking was as as dreary, dark and cold as the rainy day in Amsterdam - when Gerry and Stella first arrived.

    Flashbacks of a shocking-frightening-painful experience from years ago explains the troubles that show up in this marriage. The characters are believable, human, with faults and strengths......

    There is love, loss, and resilience......but I found much of the story dreadful! (Just personal taste- but please note: I do think it's beautifully written)

    3.5 stars for excellent writing- great descriptions- a sincere issue this couple needed to grapple with (although I HATED THE CHOICES MYSELF - AS I PERSONALLY DON'T VALUE RELIGION OR DRINKING IN THE WAY THIS COUPLE DID) ......

    A favorite Plus for me: I enjoyed walking through the galleries at the Rijksmuseum. There was a painting of "The Jewish Bride", by Rembrandt. Loved it!

    Thank You W.W. Norton & Company, Netgalley, and Bernard MacLaverty

  • Maureen

    Irish born Stella and Gerry are at a crossroads in their lives. Approaching their late sixties, they no longer share common interests - Gerry has his drinking, whilst Stella has her religion, a faith which has never deserted her, even at the lowest point in her life. They may not share common interests, but they still share intimacies that come from a long marriage, from knowing a person as well as you know yourself - the way Gerry still takes Stella's hand when crossing the road, or the habit t

    Irish born Stella and Gerry are at a crossroads in their lives. Approaching their late sixties, they no longer share common interests - Gerry has his drinking, whilst Stella has her religion, a faith which has never deserted her, even at the lowest point in her life. They may not share common interests, but they still share intimacies that come from a long marriage, from knowing a person as well as you know yourself - the way Gerry still takes Stella's hand when crossing the road, or the habit they have of sharing a kiss whenever they're in an elevator.

    As the story begins, Stella and Gerry are about to take a trip to Amsterdam, and it's told with an unflinching honesty that I found heartbreaking. The small silences that older marriages are comfortable enough to endure, become virtual non communication for them. Stella has her own agenda for this trip, which doesn't include her husband, while Gerry is happy to be left to his drinking ( secret or otherwise ).

    I liked the way the author gave snippets of information in the form of flashbacks, especially to the 'troubles' in Northern Ireland, and the dreadful day when Stella became one of the many statistics of the troubles, fortunately one who lived to tell the tale.

    The writing is simply exquisite, and captures so well the problems that come with age, not just in medical terms, but also how the passing years bring about a need to re-examine life and decisions. The author has told the story with love and compassion, and there was a particular scene that takes place in Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam, involving an earring, that makes me want to weep just thinking about it - so moving.

    Bernard MacLaverty's insight into love in later years is simply beautiful to witness. I want to gather his words into a great big hug and keep them close forever!

    *Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for my ARC in exchange for an honest review*

  • Saleh MoonWalker

    Onvan : Midwinter Break - Nevisande : Bernard MacLaverty - ISBN : 1911214217 - ISBN13 : 9781911214212 - Dar 242 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2017

  • Stephen Clynes

    Follow Gerry and Stella Gilmore as they go on a short break away to Amsterdam.

    I found Midwinter Break a refreshing change from your average run-of-the-mill mix of novels. It is a love story but not with young, vibrant, enthusiastic twenty year olds. Gerry and Stella are a retired couple who have been married for many, many years. I thought Bernard described the dynamics of having been married together for a very long time spot on. I really engaged with Gerry and Stella, it was all those little t

    Follow Gerry and Stella Gilmore as they go on a short break away to Amsterdam.

    I found Midwinter Break a refreshing change from your average run-of-the-mill mix of novels. It is a love story but not with young, vibrant, enthusiastic twenty year olds. Gerry and Stella are a retired couple who have been married for many, many years. I thought Bernard described the dynamics of having been married together for a very long time spot on. I really engaged with Gerry and Stella, it was all those little things that couples share subliminally in their married lives. Because of their age, they share mutual things, some of which brought a big smile to my face. They have a routine and rather than drag out the whole day, they restrict themselves to an “ailment hour”, when they are free to discuss their aches and pains!

    There is lots of good dry humour sprinkled through this story, for example…

    They approached the main terminal, protected behind stainless-steel bollards. ‘This must have cost millions,’ Gerry shouted above the noise of their cases. ‘What’s to stop a motorbike bomber going between the bollards?’

    In WH Smith’s Gerry bought a packet of Werther’s Original. He’d kid her on that he forgot. Then surprise her just before take-off.

    ‘D’you like these?’

    She held up a cellophane pack from Marks & Spencer.

    ‘What are they?’

    ‘New pyjamas.’

    ‘Black?’

    ‘As sin.’

    He raised an eyebrow and looked up at her.

    ‘Why? Did you think it’d be a turn-on - like sleeping with a priest?’

    ‘Priests usually have enough independence to choose their own pyjamas.’

    Stella took her purse and approached the counter. She returned carrying Gerry’s drink and a jug. Gerry lifted his glass and looked at the measure.

    ‘A well-built ant could piss more.’

    ‘I asked for a double.’

    ‘You’re learning.’

    ‘Killing you with kindness.’

    ‘I’ve missed the Ailment Hour.’

    ‘We can do a two-hour stint tomorrow. If you feel well enough.’

    ‘I’ve got these strange hairs growing beneath my watch…’

    ‘I was only joking.’

    I liked how Midwinter Break focused on just Gerry and Stella. I got the impression that I went away with them to Amsterdam and that I was part of the party. This novel also explored Gerry’s relationship with alcohol and Stella’s relationship with Catholicism. Bernard has an extensive use of vocabulary and I liked his use of detail regarding Gerry’s old job as an architect, the troubles that took place in Northern Ireland and the questioning of religion by both Gerry and Stella.

    However, this is essentially a love story but has very little in the way of a plot. There are no big surprises and the reader peacefully bumbles along with Gerry and Stella. All very nice in a very leisurely way, a few drinks, some meals and a nice stroll around Amsterdam. Yes, Bernard does the married life thing very well indeed but this does not lead to an exciting read. It is engaging and comfortable but it is not edge of seat stuff. I wondered where this story was going and expected something big to happen at the end. The ending was disappointing but I found Midwinter Break to be a GOOD read that I will give 4 stars.

    Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for giving me a copy of this book on the understanding that I provide an honest review.

  • Dianne

    This is the story of Gerry and Stella, in their early sixties, off on a 4-day holiday to Amsterdam. They are at pivotal moment in their lives and their marriage. Gerry is an alchoholic and Stella is fed up and looking to lead a more purposeful and spiritual life.

    This was well-written but it really dragged for me, especially toward the end. I don't know how Gerry and Stella felt, but this seemed like the longest vacation in history. Too much blah blah blah. The last quarter of the book was more s

    This is the story of Gerry and Stella, in their early sixties, off on a 4-day holiday to Amsterdam. They are at pivotal moment in their lives and their marriage. Gerry is an alchoholic and Stella is fed up and looking to lead a more purposeful and spiritual life.

    This was well-written but it really dragged for me, especially toward the end. I don't know how Gerry and Stella felt, but this seemed like the longest vacation in history. Too much blah blah blah. The last quarter of the book was more skimmed than read.

    Liked it, but didn't love it.

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