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Midwinter Break

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A retired couple Gerry and Stella Gil 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 familia. 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 taleThe writing is simply exuisite 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 movingBernard 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 foreverThank you to Netgalley and Random House UK Vintage Publishing for my ARC in exchange for an honest review A Faint Cold Fear (Grant County, point in her life They may not share common interests but they still share intimacies that come from a long marriage from knowing a Sweet Mandarin 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 taleThe writing is simply exuisite and captures so well the Sweet Mandarin: The Courageous True Story of Three Generations of Chinese Women and their Journey from East to West problems that come with age not just in medical terms but also how the The Lost Heart of Asia 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 The Secret Life And Brutal Death Of Mamie Thurman particular scene that takes The Tavern on Maple Street place in Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam involving an earring that makes me want to weep just thinking about it so movingBernard 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 foreverThank you to Netgalley and Random House UK Vintage Publishing for my ARC in exchange for an honest review

Free read Ó E-book, or Kindle E-pub ò Bernard MacLaverty

R But over the course of the four days we discover the deep uncertainties that exist between them Gerry once an architect is forgetful and set in his ways Stella is tired of his lifestyle worried about their marriage and angry at his constant undermining of. This love story about a retired couple is full of paradox It appears uite light but it is surprisingly deep It seems uite ordinary but its impact is extraordinary It is funny and serious a sad book and a happy book at the same time A book mainly about Him yet predominantly about Her A book about a shared life that is not really shared at allI figured near the beginning that this Him Her story wouldn't suit me I wasn't interested in knowing that She says her prayers every night before getting into bed with her hot water bottle or that He who never prays sits up all night with his whiskey bottle instead And even though I related slightly better to Him than to Her I just couldn't get interested in the clues to unhappiness that were scattered everywhere Clues such as artificial tears and cracks in masonryBut somewhere along the way in the space between one line and the next there was an inexplicable shift in my thinking I still don't know how it happened but by the end of the book I had become completely involved in both the story and the writing picking up on the author's clues eagerly and even anticipating the words that would come next As He chants a litany of praise to Her for example I was thinking That's a hymn a Him to Her And then He says exactly that It was as if the story was a crossword and I had learned to figure it outThat was uite a miraculous turnaround you might say sceptically And I'm inclined to be sceptical about it myself I've never had much time for the miraculousBut miracle like happenings can insert themselves into the smallest spaces think of the wonder of the midwinter sun slicing through the prehistoric underground chamber at NewgrangeBernard McLaverty shines a light into the hidden spaces of a shared life and the result is uite wonderful The Lost Heart of Asia paradox It appears uite light but it is surprisingly deep It seems uite ordinary but its impact is extraordinary It is funny and serious a sad book and a happy book at the same time A book mainly about Him yet The Secret Life And Brutal Death Of Mamie Thurman predominantly about Her A book about a shared life that is not really shared at allI figured near the beginning that this Him Her story wouldn't suit me I wasn't interested in knowing that She says her The Tavern on Maple Street prayers every night before getting into bed with her hot water bottle or that He who never The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich prays sits up all night with his whiskey bottle instead And even though I related slightly better to Him than to Her I just couldn't get interested in the clues to unhappiness that were scattered everywhere Clues such as artificial tears and cracks in masonryBut somewhere along the way in the space between one line and the next there was an inexplicable shift in my thinking I still don't know how it happened but by the end of the book I had become completely involved in both the story and the writing El caso Banchero picking up on the author's clues eagerly and even anticipating the words that would come next As He chants a litany of The Pleasure Trap praise to Her for example I was thinking That's a hymn a Him to Her And then He says exactly that It was as if the story was a crossword and I had learned to figure it outThat was uite a miraculous turnaround you might say sceptically And I'm inclined to be sceptical about it myself I've never had much time for the miraculousBut miracle like happenings can insert themselves into the smallest spaces think of the wonder of the midwinter sun slicing through the Watching Natalie Cheat prehistoric underground chamber at NewgrangeBernard McLaverty shines a light into the hidden spaces of a shared life and the result is uite wonderful

Bernard MacLaverty ò 9 Download

Her religious faith Things are not helped by memories that have begun to resurface of a troubled time in their native Ireland 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. The family is raised the work’s done That can’t be it can it There’s ten or twenty years left over as it were We’ve cut the life of our cloth wrongly It doesn’t fit I have a sense of drift I want to do something with the time I have left Other than watch you drink 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 GlasgowThe 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 earlierA 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 He believed that everything and everybody in the world was worthy of notice but the person beside him was something beyond that To him her presence was as important as the world And the stars around it If she was an instance of the goodness in this world then passing through by her side was miracle enough Birthday promise made to God years earlierA beautifully understated novel and a brilliant Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything portrait of a long relationship a relationship forever changed by one event but which is then worked out over years a relationship of two Discordia 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 He believed that everything and everybody in the world was worthy of notice but the Stage Mum person beside him was something beyond that To him her A Faint Cold Fear (Grant County, presence was as important as the world And the stars around it If she was an instance of the goodness in this world then Sweet Mandarin passing through by her side was miracle enough


10 thoughts on “Midwinter Break

  1. says:

    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 taleThe writing is simply exuisite 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 movingBernard 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 foreverThank you to Netgalley and Random House UK Vintage Publishing for my ARC in exchange for an honest review


  2. says:

    This is a profoundly moving and perceptive examination of the anatomy of a long marriage Gerry and Stella Gil 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 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 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 inevitableGerry 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


  3. says:

    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 coupleHowever 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 couplesetc 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 strengthsThere is love loss and resiliencebut I found much of the story dreadful Just personal taste but please note I do think it's beautifully written 35 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 WW Norton Company Netgalley and Bernard MacLaverty


  4. says:

    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 before her life endsA uiet 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 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 togetherAs 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 obliuely 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 lightWonderfully descriptive and an elegant and honest look at a couple in their twilight yearsARC from edelweiss


  5. says:

    This love story about a retired couple is full of paradox It appears uite light but it is surprisingly deep It seems uite ordinary but its impact is extraordinary It is funny and serious a sad book and a happy book at the same time A book mainly about Him yet predominantly about Her A book about a shared life that is not really shared at allI figured near the beginning that this Him Her story wouldn't suit me I wasn't interested in knowing that She says her prayers every night before getting into bed with her hot water bottle or that He who never prays sits up all night with his whiskey bottle instead And even though I related slightly better to Him than to Her I just couldn't get interested in the clues to unhappiness that were scattered everywhere Clues such as artificial tears and cracks in masonryBut somewhere along the way in the space between one line and the next there was an inexplicable shift in my thinking I still don't know how it happened but by the end of the book I had become completely involved in both the story and the writing picking up on the author's clues eagerly and even anticipating the words that would come next As He chants a litany of praise to Her for example I was thinking That's a hymn a Him to Her And then He says exactly that It was as if the story was a crossword and I had learned to figure it outThat was uite a miraculous turnaround you might say sceptically And I'm inclined to be sceptical about it myself I've never had much time for the miraculousBut miracle like happenings can insert themselves into the smallest spaces think of the wonder of the midwinter sun slicing through the prehistoric underground chamber at NewgrangeBernard McLaverty shines a light into the hidden spaces of a shared life and the result is uite wonderful


  6. says:

    Bernard MacLaverty has written with this book an utterly compelling and disarmingly human novel in which each one of us will see parts of ourselvesI read it during one of my recurrent February doldrums and I have to put down to that fact a resultant inertia and demotivation in its perusalAnd well I saw a bit of my my own sometime cynicism and lack of enthusiasm in this middle aged couple TouchéHowever their tragic aporia in the face of the husband’s alcoholism is largely overridden by the beautiful finesse in MacLaverty’s evocation of the innate Dutch spirit of place on their getaway and the depth and muted delight with which the bleak remnant of their mutual love still glowsBut it probably is a story with too much emotional anxiety for younger readers unless their mature sensitivity warrants the reading This relationship is at times jarring and icy though without much self knowledge it’s little wonderFor self knowledge so often brings new openness to love in its fruitful wake Once its thunderheads of revelation have passedFor when you arrive at the threshold of advanced age you can no longer just go through the motions If your life’s real enough at that stage you only see through yourself too easilyI was uite lucky in my own case for the past 21 years have been split roughly in two the first 11 years were a culminative process of self revelation resulting in a 10 year painful process of re alignment with the worldThe male protagonist here badly needs like I needed to re align himself with the world His alcoholism though is preventing the reuisite prelude to that process from starting self knowledge So we’re seeing a gradual fade outSo that unconsciously is the situation here especially in the old male protagonist He’s not yet inwardly mature enough despite his veneer of worldly cynicism to face the music of his own convictionOr tough enough Encountering your devils is no treat This is a time if ever there was one for a renewal of vision and vigor folksWith the stress of my own burnout my moorings to the world came loose no one can tell you about that vision of hell which comes to the truly ingenuous But that vision must be facedTHAT’s how hard it is to be reborn after such a dark eclipse of Goodness as burnout And the soul of the male protagonist of Midwinter Break is now being tipped into its fireWill the couple’s unvoiced love pull him through?Well what’s so achingly apparent here is the reality of the affection that still mitigates the inner conflict of their lonely life together I keep thinking these these folks only need a little pushAnd isn’t that what midwinter breaks are for?But it’s the sense of anguish in their mutual distancing that gave me the greatest uneasiness It prevented me from rating this book with a full five stars It’s a personal thing The story’s atmospheric beauty of description both of middle aged affection and exuisite details of the Amsterdam locale and particularly the scene at the Rijksmuseum as well as its perfectly orchestrated characterization two lives lived from the Inside Out compelled me to give it at the very least a grateful four starsIt’s bitter realism may excoriate us but it’s a wonderfully written novel written with great elegance and acumen


  7. says:

    All Women Marry Beneath ThemselvesLike the Shakers the Beguine movement was an attempt to provide some institutional respite for women in a world dominated by men their narcissistic violence and chronically inadeuate women’s toilet facilities The Begijnhof in Amsterdam is a vestige of this movement which is probably no less necessary today than it was in medieval societyGerry is a boor and a functional alcoholic Stella is spiritually minded and feels dis valued They have reached that stage in their marriage in which a gentle sniping and comforting ritual is as intimate as it gets Both self medicate to relieve disappointment with their lives he with booze; she with an idea of escape into a refuge like the Beguines Both want a different life She is obviously the competent at livingAs an intact antiue city Amsterdam evokes not just the past but specific memories for Gerry and Stella “There was a time when Stella and he were congruent” muses Gerry Especially when they shared a trauma to which they both had to adapt Is there anything than that stale shared past to keep them together?On the other hand “What was love but a lifetime of conversations And silences Knowing when to be silent Above all knowing when to laugh” Could there actually be to look forward to in old age than this? Perhaps this is the implication of MacLaverty’s references to Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying it’s all than a little neurotic but somehow it works


  8. says:

    In every relationship’ said Stella ‘there’s a flower and a gardener One who does the work and one who displaysAt first nothing heralded this book would be such rewarding experience The story about ageing couple seldom seems to have something revealing to offer Gerry and Stella He's a retired architect and university lecturer she used to be a school teacher They come from Ireland though by now they spent uite a chunk of their lives in Scotland They're catholics though Gerry doesn't take it seriously any He also drinks too much while Stella is in search for something that could provide her fulfillment in the last part of her life and lessen sense of emptiness and futility And a few day vacation in Amsterdam during winter season seems to be a longed for occasion Because Stella apart from visiting museums wandering through the city and enjoying leisure days appears to have a plan I truly don't know how MacLaverty did it How from such cliched motives he managed to create something so fresh and not banal at all How from these unrefined ingredients he prepared such an extraordinary feast And I don't know either why the novel so resonated with me Was it because it being well written or perhaps the prevailing factor was my age that made me willing to looking back at what had happened to me and how I handled some stuff or in some cases how I didn't I enjoyed the novel immensely I liked all cultural references to architecture and paintings MacLaverty pointed there and I truly felt for the protagonists By turns I was surprised at times slightly bored or simply amused by their daily rituals yet still I cared for them I was touched by Gerry's protectiveness and could understand Stella's reuirements either I liked it was tender but deprived of sentimentality I would hate to be put in the middle of melodrama Initially I slightly gravitated towards Gerry not because he seemed to me fragile or easier to hurt no not at all rather due to Stella's activities She was so preoccupied with her target so determined and her mind seemed to be perfectly made I thought about Gerry to be relatable and didn't mind his drinking though I could see a problem in the long run From the other hand I didn't share Stella's interests neither her religiousness And yet I felt close to her At first glance the protagonists felt so easy to read and still remained complex and full of contradictions In fact I'm still mulling over the fact that the novel on such an unadventurous and trite theme can be so satisfying and inspiring read It takes a true master to convey the story where seemingly nothing happens like pure roller coaster of emotions and feelings


  9. says:

    The family is raised the work’s done That can’t be it can it? There’s ten or twenty years left over as it were We’ve cut the life of our cloth wrongly It doesn’t fit I have a sense of drift I want to do something with the time I have left Other than watch you drink 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 GlasgowThe 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 earlierA 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 He believed that everything and everybody in the world was worthy of notice but the person beside him was something beyond that To him her presence was as important as the world And the stars around it If she was an instance of the goodness in this world then passing through by her side was miracle enough


  10. says:

    Mac Laverty is a writer of gorgeous prose and deeply thoughtful novels His latest novel strengthens his reputation as an exceptional writer Stella and Gerry are a retired couple in their 70’s Mac Laverty spreads details about their lives throughout the book rather than giving them to the reader upfront They now live in Glasgow and have been there for several decades Stella grew up in a large Catholic family in rural Northern Ireland and was the only student in her school to go on to get a university degree She became a teacher at a girls’ comprehensive school in Belfast where she and Gerry met at a dance Gerry also Catholic studied architecture at a technical school in Belfast He lacked the drive or perhaps talent to become an architect and ended up a university lecturer They have one son and one grandson They live in Canada and that distance is a source of heartbreak for Stella The book takes place during a trip the couple make to Amsterdam in January The trip was Stella’s idea and she has a purpose which she doesn’t share with Gerry Gerry is a “secret” drinker and he works hard to hide his drinking from his wife In this kind of situation often the drinker believes others are unaware of their addiction Both have their secrets which is pushing them apart Amsterdam in January is an unusual choice for a getaway but Mac Laverty portrays the city not as dim and cold in the winter light but as a place of discovery and hidden corners While Gerry sleeps and drinks Stella goes off on her own looking for something she won’t share Of the two Stella continues to practice her Catholic faith which Gerry has turned his back on She wanted to live the life of her Catholicism This was where her kindness if she had any her generosity her sense of justice had all come from And her humility she must not forget humility Catholicism was her source of spiritual stem cellsGerry always the architect studies the buildings and reflects He tried to build a picture of this landscape before the snow And when he succeeded in doing so he subtracted the buildings Dismantling them andimagined how it would have looked centuries agoAs the story unfolds the reader learns what drove Stella and Gerry out of Belfast It was a single horrific event that continues to haunt each of them in different ways As Gerry retreats into alcoholism Stella considers a life without him But this is a couple who deeply love each other It is a short trip that leads both of them to face their fears their secrets and the meaning of the lives they have livedThanks to Net Galley for sharing a copy of this book for review