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Midwinter Break
Cover of Midwinter Break
Midwinter Break
A Novel
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Shortlisted for the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award

"[A] wrenchingly intimate depiction of a couple in the chilly, hibernal years of their marriage...[A book] with rare and unexpected beauty." —Wall Street Journal

With Midwinter Break, a moving portrait of retired couple Gerry and Stella Gilmore's marriage in crisis, Bernard MacLaverty reminds us why he is regarded as one of the greatest living Irish writers. Through accurate, compassionate observation and effortlessly elegant writing, MacLaverty reveals the long-unspoken insecurities that exist between Gerry and Stella over their four-day holiday in Amsterdam, crafting a profound examination of human love.

Shortlisted for the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award

"[A] wrenchingly intimate depiction of a couple in the chilly, hibernal years of their marriage...[A book] with rare and unexpected beauty." —Wall Street Journal

With Midwinter Break, a moving portrait of retired couple Gerry and Stella Gilmore's marriage in crisis, Bernard MacLaverty reminds us why he is regarded as one of the greatest living Irish writers. Through accurate, compassionate observation and effortlessly elegant writing, MacLaverty reveals the long-unspoken insecurities that exist between Gerry and Stella over their four-day holiday in Amsterdam, crafting a profound examination of human love.

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About the Author-
  • Bernard MacLaverty is the author of five previous collections of stories and five novels, including Grace Notes, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and Midwinter Break, shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award. Born in Ireland, he now lives in Glasgow, Scotland.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 26, 2017
    The fifth novel from Booker finalist MacLaverty is a quietly powerful elegy that chides two finely-wrought characters for not being capable of defining what they value most in life. Gerry and Stella, in a possibly final stage of their married life—a life that included a near-tragic brush with the Troubles back in their native Northern Ireland—take a winter trip from their home in Scotland to Amsterdam, a journey that starts as a holiday but ends a crucible. In the cold and gloom, amid puzzling ennui that has gripped Stella, Gerry, an architect and alcoholic, is a keen, if cynical, observer of a world he finds bemusing but less larded with burdensome meaning than does Stella. With a kind of existential humor he teases his wife about her religious fervor. Stella, meanwhile, is dead serious about her Catholicism, and she has secretly planned the holiday as a first step toward leaving Gerry. She has heard of a group of lay nuns who reside in Amsterdam, and she steals away one morning to pay a visit, thinking she might ask to join them. Stella is the alpha partner in this eroded relationship, but it is Gerry’s thoughts, about everything, upon which we rely for wisdom. Because the reader knows what Stella intends before Gerry does, his every observation is shot through with melancholy; his simple declaration of devotion on this graceful novel’s final page is exquisite.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from June 15, 2017
    The Belfast-born writer etches an affecting portrait of a couple more than 40 years married as they confront the idea that one of them is thinking of leaving.Stella is a retired English teacher who likes to do cryptic crosswords as mental exercise. Her husband, Gerry, is a retired architect who likes to drink. They grew up and met in Northern Ireland but now live in Scotland, apparently exiled by the violence of the "thirty years war," a time 74-year-old MacLaverty (Collected Stories, 2014, etc.) wrote of in Cal and elsewhere. That all is not well with the marriage may first be gleaned from their taking a January holiday in Amsterdam--an odd time and place to seek a break from the Glasgow winter. The signs and sounds of friction emerge as the two characters exhibit and silently or orally comment on the routines, tics, and habits fostered by four decades of marriage, an accretion that, like coral, can offer both protection and sharp edges. Deploying a masterful palette of details and allusions, MacLaverty reveals that Stella is on a mission that involves a Dutch Beguinage--a women's religious community--an old vow, her Catholic faith, and three scars: one from a C-section and two puckered circles on the front and back of her torso that are long left unexplained. Gerry's boozing, so sadly and desperately on display in these few days, and his often acerbic jabs at Catholicism--a seeming relic of the Troubles--buttress her resolve, but they aren't apparently decisive. MacLaverty makes the reader share some of the regret in the prospect of a sudden sundering by giving the couple a keen, humorous, mutually delightful banter that comes only with years of wit and happy practice. A closely observed, deeply sympathetic rendering of a relationship and the fissures that threaten to wreck it.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    July 1, 2017
    In this short, rich, and precisely written novel, acclaimed author MacLaverty examines an ordinary marriage in crisis. Stella and her longtime husband, retired engineer Gerry, take a holiday in Amsterdam, during which it becomes clear that Stella is experiencing a spiritual crisis (her attachment to the Catholic Church runs much deeper than her husband's does); Gerry, for his part, has a growing problem with alcohol. Like MacLaverty, Gerry and Stella are Northern Irish living in Scotland, and the troubles have played a large role in their lives, while the repercussions linger. In this finely detailed rendering of a couple's virtues and foibles, there are numerous outstanding, jewel-like scenes, including one at the Anne Frank House and another at a women's center that Stella is considering joining. The novel's happy ending may not ring quite true, but on the whole this is a satisfying, thoroughly enjoyable, and even at times tongue-clucking read.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2017

    Perhaps best known for Cal and also author of Grace Notes, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, veteran Belfast-born, Glasgow-based MacLaverty returns with the story of a retired Irish couple facing the holes in their marriage while vacationing in Amsterdam. Stubborn Jerry relentlessly challenges Stella's faith, and memories of Ireland's own troubles don't help.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus Reviews A closely observed, deeply sympathetic rendering of a relationship and the fissures that threaten to wreck it.
  • Financial Times An artist with a subtle feel for the ordinary, MacLaverty's wry, outstanding novel about the tests that time, age and life impose on love resonates with humanity and emotional intelligence.
  • Publishers Weekly A quietly powerful elegy that chides two finely wrought characters for not being capable of defining what they value most in life.... Exquisite.
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune [A] tender, affecting novel.... MacLaverty's gorgeous prose is tactile and understated... and the poignancy of his story fills the reader with yearning.
  • Sunday Times MacLaverty doesn't publish novels very often, but when he does they are outstanding.
  • Irish Times Midwinter Break is a touching, hopeful portrait of love's complexity, written by a master craftsman, from the fullness of his heart.
  • The Washington Post Sure-handed and captivating.
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A Novel
Bernard Maclaverty
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