Midwinter Break - Bernard MacLaverty
Reading Challenge Category: a book nominated for an award in 2018 (made the longlist for the Wellcome Book Prize)
Official Book Blurb:A retired couple, Gerry and Stella Gilmore, fly to Amsterdam for a midwinter break. A holiday to refresh the senses, to see the sights and to generally take stock of what remains of their lives. But amongst the wintry streets and icy canals we see their relationship fracturing beneath the surface. And when memories re-emerge of a troubled time in their native Ireland things begin to fall apart. 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.
I narrowed my choice down to two books for this category. I should have chosen the other book. This book was just dull, and the protagonists were unlikeable. It was really difficult to follow as the flashbacks came out of nowhere and you weren’t even sure what you were reading half the time. So if your mind had wandered out of boredom, you could easily get lost and suddenly think “what we were in Amsterdam a second ago and now he is wittering on about something completely unrelated”. Stella seemed very harsh and unsympathetic for a religious person. Yes, Gerry liked to have a drink, but he didn’t seem to be portrayed as a ‘drunk’. He knew he had a slight drinking problem but tried to make sure it didn’t encroach on her as much as possible. However, she was prepared to leave him because of it even though he loved her and still looked after and cared for her. From what I read, his drinking didn’t affect her at all. It was if the writer had heard that ‘drinking’ could cause problems in a marriage and had used this as the problem in this book. However, had watered down the ‘drinking’ problem the way Gerry watered down his whiskey. The other problem I had with this book is that it is in the longlist for the Wellcome Book Prize. On the homepage of the Wellcome Prize Award’s website, it states “celebrating the many ways in which literature can illuminate the breadth and depth of our relationship with health, medicine and illness.” I felt that this book stretched to reach this category as they only very briefly touched on a few ailments of age. They had an ailment hour each day where they would discuss what was wrong with them. However, it didn’t encompass the book as an entirety, unless he was counting the drinking problem as the illness, but it certainly didn’t come across like that. Oh and just for the record in case anyone was wondering I’m practically teetotal (I only have a glass of sparkling rose on my birthday and Christmas!). So, it’s not like I have a drinking problem and am trying to defend Gerry in any way!