Irish-born Gerry and Stella Gilmore fly to Amsterdam for a midwinter break. On the surface, this long-married retired couple have taken a holiday to see some sights and spruce up their humdrum day-to-day routine.
But along the wintry streets and icy canals we see their relationship fracturing beneath the surface. This novel offers a near-forensic analysis of the “midwinter” of a long marriage.
Rumbling frustrations and whiffs of contempt rub along with easy familiarity. The way Gerry still takes Stella’s hand when crossing the road, or the habit they have of sharing a kiss whenever they’re in an elevator, nods to a well-worn, if reflexive, intimacy.
But Gerry and Stella have reached a crossroads in their life. Now in their sixties, they realize they no longer share common interests — Gerry is a borderline alcoholic and Stella is obsessed with religion. They may not share common interests, but they still share the bond that comes from a long relationship. As their break comes to an end, we understand how far apart they are — but will they save themselves from a further drift?
Irish author Bernard MacLaverty’s approach is understated and meanderingly paced.
But if you’re looking for exquisite, lyrical prose and characters that are traced with honesty and compassion, this may be the book for you.