Nominated by:

Galway Public Libraries, Ireland

Universitätsbibliothek Bern, Switzerland

Redbridge Libraries, London, UK

Milwaukee Public Library, USA

San Diego Public Library, USA

Publisher of nominated edition:

Jonathan Cape, UK

W.W. Norton, USA

Midwinter Break

Bernard MacLaverty      

Comments from the judges

In Midwinter Break, a novel about a long-married couple in their twilight years, Bernard MacLaverty presents a world of both extr­­­­eme intensity and profound silence. This ostensibly simply-structured story takes place between Gerry and Stella over a long weekend trip to Amsterdam. The narrative elucidates the incredible richness in humanity: love, doubt, memories and forgetfulness – their forty years together becomes the four day journey narrated in this book. MacLaverty also interrogates the being of time in a seasoned and elegant manner: its substance, resilience and articulation. This novel is a timely piece which exemplifies fiction’s power to distil and encapsulate.

About the book

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.

About the Author

Bernard MacLaverty lives in Glasgow. He has written five collections of stories and four other novels, including Grace Notes which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award. He has written versions of his fiction for other media – radio and television plays, screenplays and libretti.

Librarians’ comments:

A quietly devastating novel that explores questions of time and humanity with the utmost technical skill harnessed to prose of undemonstrative clarity and precision.

Long overdue latest novel by Bernard MacLaverty. Heart rending look at human love after a forty year marriage. Written with wit and sadness, the novel, set in Amsterdam, also has flashbacks to a troubled Northern Ireland. Beautifully written romantic texts yet situations ordinary and relative to every reader. A recommended read….definitely!

This book is about a retired couple who take a long weekend trip to the diversity of Amsterdam, turning it into an intimate portrait of life lived and an enduring relationship, warts and all. The author has the ability to make the seemingly mundane interesting.

Forty years after his first book, MacLaverty has written his masterpiece.

MacLaverty is remarkable when it comes to revealing the minutiae of a long-married couple’s life. This is a closely observed, deeply sympathetic rendering of a relationship and the fissures that threaten to wreck it. Written with accurate, compassionate observation; effortlessly elegant writing; results in a tender, intimate, heartrending story.

Gerry and Stella Gilmore, a long married couple travel to Amsterdam, ostensibly for a romantic long weekend. Their son is grown and moved to Canada and now they find little to distract themselves from painful events in the past. Stella, who is devoutly Catholic is secretly searching for a way to deepen her faith while Gerry takes refuge in drink. Events come to a head when each is faced with revealing what they really want.


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