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Late Nights on Air Hardcover – International Edition, September 18, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
After being fired from his latest television job, a disgraced Harry Boyd returns to his radio roots in the northern Canadian town of Yellowknife as the manager of a station no one listens to, and finds himself at the center of the station's unlikely social scene. New anchor Dido Paris, both renowned and mocked for her Dutch accent, fled an affair with her husband's father, only to be torn between Harry and another man. Wild child Gwen came to learn radio production, but under Harry's tutelage finds herself the guardian of the late-night shift. And lonely Eleanor wonders if it's time to move south just as she meets an unlikely suitor. While the station members wait for Yellowknife to get its first television station and the crew embarks on a life-changing canoe expedition, the city is divided over a proposal to build a pipeline that would cut across Native lands, bringing modernization and a flood of workers, equipment and money into sacred territory. Hay's crystalline prose, keen details and sharp dialogue sculpt the isolated, hardy residents of Yellowknife, who provide a convincing backdrop as the main cast tromps through the existential woods. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
#1 National Bestseller
“Elizabeth Hay has created her own niche in Canadian fiction by fastening her intelligence on the real stuff — the bumps and glories in love, kinship, friendship.”
— Toronto Star
“Hay exposes the beauty simmering in the heart of harsh settings with an evocative grace that brings to mind Annie Proulx.”
— Washington Post
"Dazzling....A flawlessly crafted and timeless story, masterfully told.” — Jury citation, the Scotiabank Giller Prize
“Exquisite….Hay creates enormous spaces with few words, and makes the reader party to the journey, listening, marvelling….” — Globe and Mail
“This is Hay’s best novel yet.” — Marni Jackson, The Walrus
“Invites comparison with work by Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood. Outside Canada, one thinks of A.S. Byatt or Annie Proulx.” — Times Literary Supplement
“Written by a master storyteller.” — Winnipeg Free Press
“Psychologically astute, richly rendered and deftly paced. It’s a pleasure from start to finish.” — Toronto Star
Top Customer Reviews
So. How about tuning in to CBC Radio..... in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories! In the year 1975! Exactly. The mere thought of it is enough to send a muskox into premature hibernation.
But enter the literary genius of Elizabeth Hay, for the above-mentioned is the exact setting of Late Nights On Air, a novel that is never for a moment, boring.
She peoples her book with fascinating, somewhat eccentric yet believable, transients.
Harry Boyd is a castaway from the Toronto television scene, now working the late shift at CBC Yellowknife and obscurely living out his banishment in the far north. One night he falls in love with the "low-pitched sexiness" and "elusive accent" of a new voice on the airwaves.
The voice belongs to Dido Paris, a novice, literally "hired off the street."
Harry begins immediate flrtations with her, and is immediately rebuffed.
Dido comes from who knows where and is as mythical as both her names. An ethereal, commanding presence throughout the book, even though in the last half of it, she is largely absent, having run off with the technician, Eddy Fitzgerald.
She seems to be the benchmark against which other female characters in the book assess themselves, one being Gwen Symons, another novice broadcaster.
Gwen does not have the natural skills that Dido enjoys. In fact, Gwen needs a lot of patience and understanding, and the new interim manager [Harry Boyd] is able to nurture and encourage her toward a realization of her own skill and proficiency.
The novel gravitates toward the discovered mutual interests of four co-workers at the radio station, these being Harry Boyd, Gwen Symons, Eleanor Dew, and Ralph Cody. Together they embark on an arduous six-week canoe journey through the Arctic wilderness known as the Barrens.
None of them could have prepared adequately for how arduous it would indeed, prove to be. All are changed, marked for life, and for death, through the experience. Loves are gained, and [tragically] lost.
I would describe the author's attention to landscape as being downright Urquhartian. You sense the rippling waters and crackling ice, hear the tinkle of Northern Lights, and slap yourself for mosquitoes, as you read.
I found the book evocative of a bittersweet play between disclosure and reticence. Between characters being drawn and attracted to each other but for diverse and understandable reasons, unable to acknowledge it in time.
Harry's feelings for Dido are denied, withheld, temporarily assuaged, and then returned to a state of numbing unrequitedness. Dido herself suffers the pain of unrequited love, while maintaining a sort of second-best relationship with Eddy Fitzgerald. Similar frustrations occur in several pairings of relationships, culminating in the heartrending shattered dreams of Ralph and Eleanor.
The last few pages offer the reader a beautiful redemptive reversal to this trend.
Hay, herself an intrepid canoeist, former Yellowknifer, and radio broadcaster, is obviously in her element here in Late Nights. And not on these levels alone, but also on yet another, very important one...
I look forward to reading more of her work.
The author taps into the controversy of the proposed Mackenzie River Valley natural gas line that pitted natives and old-timers like Harry versus business types, though mostly as a background device for the 1970s. The history of the Artic north is replete with legends of rugged survivalists and those who succumbed to the elements. The tragic death of one such individual John Hornby in the 1920s intrigued Harry sufficiently that he along with Ralph, Eleanor, and Gwen undertake an arduous journey by foot and canoe to visit the site of his death with, once again, the harsh, unpredictable weather bringing about a distressing outcome. However, not only on the journey, but also around town, the details of the landscape remain murky.
The book is choppy: for the most part a sequence of disconnected scenarios. The promise of the radio station as a unifying theme is insufficiently developed; the shift to a wilderness adventure seems abrupt and not particularly credible in light of practically no wilderness skills on the part of the participants. The characters, with the possible exception of Gwen, are inadequately developed. The author repeatedly indulges in foretelling: a character is going to have some sort of feeling or three things will happen to someone. The author's attempt to bring closure to this saga just does not rescue the overall spottiness of the book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fantastic read- loved the characters.