Midwinter Break - Bernard MacLaverty

March 23, 2018

3.5 / 5 Stars


An intricate, nuanced novel, but a tad slow in places. Full marks for writing style though - impressive.

Midwinter Break is one of those intriguing literary sort of novels, where nothing much happens, and you feel yourself drifting through much of it, but it's nonetheless very satisfying to read.



Stella, a deeply religious woman, is married to Gerry, who (to put it mildly) likes a tipple or two. They head off to Amsterdam for a winter's break, but as you might expect, the focus is not on their holiday, but rather on the state of their relationship and their past. 

It's a book about love and compromise, but also about growing up in Ireland during the 'troubles'; and the traumatic incident that both of them went through at the time. 

There's much to admire in this book. The author's descriptions are so rich, detailed and relateable that it almost feels as though you're right there with the characters, experiencing every landscape in which they move through. Likewise, the character's emotional responses feel hyper-realistic, and as such, ring with authenticity. Stella's internal turmoil I thought was particularly well-realised and in particular, displayed gorgeously when she leaves an earring as an 'offering' at the Anne Frank house, only to change her mind and return for it later. 

However, there were times when I did feel a little frustrated by the sedate pace. I'm not a reader who demands action throughout a book, but there does need to be somethingpushing the pace, whether it's some sort of emotional conflict etc. and there were points when this book just didn't have enough of that. 

But that being said, I loved the way the relationship was conveyed. It's an astounding study of how a marriage can struggle through difficult times, but also of how resilient it can be.

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