“Break” in this novel’s title has more than one
interpretation. Stella and Gerry, Irish expatriots living in
Scotland, are taking an extended weekend in Amsterdam. The long
marriage of the 70somethings may be at the breaking point.
Stella and Gerry survived the Troubles in North Ireland during their early marriage and escaped to Glasgow, where he worked as an architect and she as a teacher. Their only child lives in Canada. Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty presents their relationship with tenderness. This is not a couple who have stopped talking. Their lively banter attests to mutual pleasure being together. They get along. There is still love, even sex.
But Stella wants to fulfill a vow to God she made 42 years before when she and the baby she carried survived a shooting on Blooding Friday in Belfast. Though Gerry doesn’t realize it as the trip starts, Stella has planned to ask for admission to a residence of Catholic women so that she can spend her remaining years doing good spiritually. She is also fed up with Gerry’s drinking and his cynicism about her religious beliefs.
A long marriage is not the only focus of Midwinter Break. It also is frank about aging’s indignities and the furtiveness and self-deception of alcoholism. It is a quietly moving novel for readers who prefer character study to action.
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