I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run
The mood of the book Midwinter Break and the content actually had the effect of making me question the longevity and even the purpose of marriage. Is it for companionship? Is it for love? What happens when that love loses through time its spontaneity, its freshness, and those little traits you once adored in your partner now appear as an irritation, an annoyance rather than a pleasure.
Gerry and Stella have embarked on a short break to the city of Amsterdam. This is a place that on the one hand is steeped in architectural magnificence and yet is more renowned even recognized for it's tolerance of escorts and prostitutes who brazenly advertise their trade in "rosse buurt" but better known to tourists as the red light district.
Gerry and Stella approaching the twilight of their years present to the readers as a loving couple comfortable in each other's company enjoying the good and bad of this colourful capital. As a retired architect Gerry has an immediate connection with Amsterdam and both can certainly appreciate the history and horror, the open wound that is The House of Anne Frank. Gerry possesses an alcoholic's desires and need to be constantly refueling with Ireland's most famous export; Jamesons blended whiskey. Stella has begrudgingly accepted this weakness viewing this as part of her husband's failings, but is this trip to Amsterdam Stella's opportunity to break free and discover within herself some inner peace and contentment before her body and mind succumbs to the ravages of time. A type of religious community, an order of women living "useful and happy independent lives"... appears to offer the redemption and release she craves, but would they accept her?
At the airport waiting for the flight home Stella tells Gerry that she does not wish to remain in their marriage any longer and on returning home to Scotland the flat will be sold. We learn of a traumatic incident that happened to Stella many years ago and her staunch support of the catholic church which Gerry views as..."Inflexible, narrow, capable of doing terrible damage by her adherence to rules and systems."..... Yet Stella views her relationship with the church as a support helping her cope in those dark times..."Mass is the most precious thing in my life. It's the storyboard of how to get through."..
This is a very powerful, soulful, intimate tale showing the effects and damage that a long term relationship can have on the parties involved. In some ways this book presents itself as a depressing read, yet cannot it also offer hope? Relationships, and love within a marriage change, people need to be aware that as we grow older the way that we interact with our surroundings and the people we love the most never remains or indeed cannot remain the same...."What was love but a lifetime of conversations. And silences. Knowing when to be silent. Above all, knowing when to laugh".... Midwinter Break is informative, enjoyable and highly recommended