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Summary

An intense exploration of love and uncertainty when a long-married couple, Gerry and Stella, take a midwinter break in Amsterdam to refresh the senses, do some sightseeing and generally take stock of their lives. Their relationship seems easy, familiar - but over its course we discover the deep uncertainties between them.

Gerry, once an architect, is forgetful and set in his ways. Stella is tired of his lifestyle and angry at his constant undermining of her religious faith. Things are not helped by memories that resurface of a troubled time in their native Ireland. As their vacation comes to an end, we understand how far apart they are - and can only watch as they struggle to save themselves.

Bernard MacLaverty is a master storyteller, and this is the essential MacLaverty novel: compassionate observation, elegant writing and a heartrending story. It is also a profound examination of human love and how we live together - a chamber piece of resonance and power.

©2017 Bernard MacLaverty (P)2017 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

Critic reviews

"A work of extraordinary emotional precision and sympathy.... Full of scenes that are rendered with exquisite accuracy and care...this is a novel of great ambition by an artist at the height of his powers." (Colm Tóibín)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • peter
  • Plymouth, United Kingdom
  • 08-11-17

Best listen of 2017

This is a beautiful book. The writing is elegant, direct and vivid. The two characters are, like most of us full of faults but full of goodness. The story is both small and personal, and political in the sense that it is love story set against the background and aftermath of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, though virtually all the action takes place in Holland.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Caroline
  • Orpington, United Kingdom
  • 03-09-17

Good but not great

There was a lot I really liked about this book. As a portrait of a long-standing marriage it was very convincing. The little habits a couple develop and the fact that you can enjoy certain things about a partner whilst feeling discontented really rang true. For me the thing that let it down were that the main aspects of the characters and the reason for the conflict between them - Gerry's alcoholism and Stella's Catholicism - seemed a bit stereotypical for an Irish couple and so made them seem less believable and a bit shallow.

It was very well narrated though.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

A beautiful book

Wise and thought provoking. Beautifully written and beautifully read. Skillful and perceptive descriptions of emotions and of place.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Gentle and well observed story

It is a fairly low key story of a retired couple who have slowly drifted apart.

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beautiful writing - great audio voice

If you could sum up Midwinter Break in three words, what would they be?

writer with insight

What did you like best about this story?

genuine and authentic

What does Stephen Hogan bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

lyrical expression so delightful

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

the very end

Any additional comments?

so much enjoyed this book had to listen to it twice - a very insightful reflection of human life - a joy to hear so well read

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  • Mark
  • Essex
  • 24-04-18

Literature at its finest

When I read for my degree in English it was to enjoy works like this - really beautifully crafted works of literary fiction. They are few and far between nowadays but the likes of Maclaverty, Boyd, Le Carre, Ishiguro, Faulks, Barry and McEwan keep the flame alive. This is a subtle and complex analysis of a long marriage in crisis. It is heartfelt and true and I loved it. The reading is exquisite.

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  • Dr
  • 10-10-17

I lost the will to continue!

I found this book bland and boring. However, I did not get that far and maybe something exciting happens later. Nothing to suggest it though so didn’t want to waste any more of my time. Not my sort of book!

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  • Robin
  • 27-10-17

Dreary tale about sad people

The narration was excellent but I had little empathy with either of the two main characters, an alcoholic retired architect who put up with his miserable wife who wanted to ditch her husband to become a religious recluse.