‘A profound examination of human love and how we live together – a chamber piece of resonance and power.’
Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty is the first EVER audio book that I have listened to completely. I have the BorrowBox app on my phone and am registered through Bolinda to access ebooks and audio books online from Cork City/County Library System. I love music, so normally I choose to listen to the beat, as opposed to the spoken word, when out walking the dog, so I never really utilised this wonderful service.
Midwinter Break won the Eason’s Book Club Novel of the Year award at the Irish Book Awards in 2017. I was at the event and the name of the book stayed with me. It is also a Guardian / Sunday Times / Irish Times / Herald Scotland / Mail on Sunday Book of the Year.
Like many books on my wishlist, I never got around to it…until recently. Scrolling through the audio book selection I saw it was available to download so I went for it and I am so glad I did.
Read on to see why I chose Midwinter Break as my Valentine’s Day book review…
[ About the Book ]
A retired couple, Gerry and Stella Gilmore, fly to Amsterdam for a midwinter break. A holiday to refresh the senses, to see the sights and to generally take stock of what remains of their lives.
But amongst the wintry streets and icy canals we see their relationship fracturing beneath the surface. And when memories re-emerge of a troubled time in their native Ireland things begin to fall apart.
As their midwinter break comes to an end, we understand how far apart they are – and can only watch as they struggle to save themselves.
[ My Review ]
Midwinter Break is a stunning novel filled with the complexities of love and marriage. At the time of it’s release, it received rave reviews across the board including these…..
“Midwinter Break is a work of extraordinary emotional precision and sympathy, about coming to terms – to an honest reckoning – with love and the loss of love, with memory and pain…this is a novel of great ambition by an artist at the height of his powers” Colm Tóibín
“A marriage under strain after 40 years? A mini-break marred by bitter cold weather? An escapist dream that’s about to be nixed by reality? Gloomy though it sounds, this warm, intimate portrait of ageing love is one of the wittiest, wisest novels of the year.“ Mail on Sunday, **Books of the Year**
“Its portrayal of the tightening vice of alcohol addiction is unparalleled. But its profound exploration of its love, companionship, faith, work and our search for meaning in life made it a tender masterpiece, and one of the year’s essential reads.“ Justine Jordan Guardian, **Books of the Year**
Gerry and Stella are a retired couple, married for many years and have fallen into a rut. Stella organises a trip for them both to travel to Amsterdam. Their marriage has seen tough times, but now with their only boy living in Canada, they both have time on their hands, too much one could say. Stella is very much a woman of routine who likes things done in a certain manner and who has a place for everything. Stella is incredibly religious, believing in the greater power of God and lives a good life, an honest life. There is an underlying issue between Stella and Gerry, one that has been there for many years with no sign of change. Gerry drinks, alot. He has become reliant on a wee drop and sits every evening, waiting for Stella to go to bed so he can pour a glass for himself. Stella is fully aware of Gerry’s over dependence on the hard stuff but it’s a subject that cannot be raised for fear of upsetting the dynamic of their relationship.
But Stella has had enough. She has plans, while on this trip to Amsterdam. Stella does not intend for her life to continue down the path it’s going as Gerry loses himself to the demon drink and it is her hope that she can make the changes she feels she needs to make, for her own sanity, her own peace-of-mind.
As Gerry and Stella pack their suitcases and wait for the taxi to take them to the airport, we begin a journey with them. This is a marriage in difficulty. Stella and Gerry once loved each other dearly but with the onset of their senior years, is this love still there? Is their marriage strong enough to withstand the obstacles life puts in front of them?
Midwinter Break is narrated by Stephen Hogan and he is just amazing at conveying the sense of loss, the fear of the unknown, the hidden grief, the impact of past traumas that affect both Stella and Gerry. Here is a couple who have lost each other, lost themselves. As the years have past, Gerry has become very set in his ways and has very strong opinions on many things. He belittles Stella’s ideology on several occasions and, although Stella still loves Gerry, she is tired, exhausted from the constant negativity and, of course, the drink.
Midwinter Break is a beautiful novel about the frailty of the human relationship, exploring how easily it can be pulled apart if not tended to. This is not a fast-paced book. It’s a journey to be travelled, with two people who have lost their way and are struggling to find their way home. Stephen Hogan’s adds a real authenticity to the story, capturing wonderfully those magical moments between Gerry and Stella as they struggle through the days, together, yet very much apart.
Midwinter Break is a very intimate portrayal of two people, of a marriage and the difficult path they must navigate. It is an emotional journey exploring the human psyche, a reflective look at love and relationships.
I recommend Midwinter Break as an audio book and am now trawling through Borrow Box for my next listen. If you use BorrowBox for audio I would appreciate any recommendations please!
[ Bio ]
Bernard MacLaverty was born in Belfast (14.9.42) and lived there until 1975 when he moved to Scotland with his wife, Madeline, and four children.
He has been a Medical Laboratory Technician, a mature student, a teacher of English and occasionally a Writer-in-Residence (Universities of Aberdeen, Augsburg, Liverpool John Moore’s and Iowa State).
After living for a time in Edinburgh and the Isle of Islay he now lives in Glasgow. He is a member of Aosdana in Ireland.
Website ~ http://www.bernardmaclaverty.com/
Twitter ~ @maclavertyB