Monday 12 March 2018

Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty

I picked Midwinter Break from my TBR pile to read for Cathy @746Books #ReadIreland18 month. It is a staff pick at work thanks to one of my colleagues, so I was looking forward to it. But I failed to engage.

There was lots to like about the story. I enjoyed the time that Stella and Gerry had wandering around Amsterdam. I enjoyed their cute couple moments - the kiss in the lift, the little in-jokes and intimacies that can only occur over time and with love. It was sad seeing this obvious once-love being destroyed by Gerry's alcoholism.

He wasn't an abusive, violent drunk. There was no need to be scared of Gerry or to fear him. He was a bumbling, deceptive, in-denial drunk. He was sloppy and mocking and selfish.

It was interesting to see how the major event in their marriage - Stella being shot whilst pregnant - was a turning point for all of them, in such different ways. After she had recovered, and the baby survived as well, they made the decision together to leave Ireland for the safer option of Scotland. However, at the time of the shooting, Stella vowed and said a prayer,
Spare the child in my womb and I will devote the rest of my life to YOU.

She viewed the survival of her son as a miracle that had to be atoned - a spiritual debt that had to be repaid - by good deeds, to improve the world through kindness and justice and equality.

Gerry simply saw Stella's survival and the birth of Michael as the miracle,
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.

The tragedy being that he was just pissing all that goodness away.

Normally I don't mind jumps between various times and events, but it felt clumsy here. I kept losing my way. And the very worse thing that can happen to me when reading a book happened at the half way mark - I realised I was bored.

I skimmed through the last half hoping for my very own bookish miracle, but it failed to recapture my imagination.

Sad, but true.



  1. I recognize your reactions. The moments Gerry and Stells go about their 'hum-drum' married life was
    good to read, but her religious quest was pushing the boundries of my 'reader's belief' a bit too far. I could not get such a comprehensive review on paper because it did not 'move' me. As I said, it felt like a hot mug of chocolate milk on a winter afternoon...sigh and try to keep warm.

    1. Sometimes I think the so-so books are easier to review. I didn't love it & I didn't hate it, therefore I can write about some of it's themes and main points dispassionately.
      As you said, it had its moments but it wasn't consistent IMO.

  2. Anonymous20/3/18

    Some aspects I enjoyed - the routines they had fallen into for example including the hour they spent every day giving an update on ailments..... But the religious calling part didn't speak much to me.


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