Midwinter Break – Bernard MacLaverty

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Midwinter Break – Bernard MacLaverty

Post by Graham on Fri Aug 17, 2018 2:58 pm

A couple in the late stages of a marriage take a plane to Amsterdam for a midwinter break. They are by turns tetchy and complacent, negotiating the twists and turns of a long relationship with humour, habit and ordinary frustration. Gerry drinks and thinks he keep it secret. Stella wants a life with more spiritual meaning.

This is the stuff that usually sends me screaming for a thriller but MacLaverty makes the everyday fascinating and the inner workings of a relationship heading for crisis become the workings of the plot. I was held for the duration of the book. In my head I saw Jim Broadbent and Emma Thompson in the roles. Broadbent as Gerry I understood. He starred in Le Week-end a 2013 film with a similar plot. Ms Thompson, I think because I saw the trailer for the Children’s Act. McEwan’s novel covers similar territory but as a sub-plot. To carry it as the main theme takes considerable skill. When I say MacLaverty accomplishes it with attention to detail it makes me think of similar novels which become bogged down in description but with which they add nothing important to the story. Here everything is significant and gradually the immensely affecting details of their backstory amid the violence of 70’s Northern Ireland, begin to emerge.

MacLaverty’s style is deceptively easy but its simplicity is highly emotional and effective. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys intelligent writing even if the plot doesn’t appeal.

Graham
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