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Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay

Late Nights on Air (2007)

by Elizabeth Hay

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Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
The first half of the book sets down the foundation of flawed characters who slowly woo you into the landscape of the North, its isolation, yet the closeness and intimacy of their township, and the realism and authenticity of their unique, yet easily recognizable personalities. They are rich and substantial, lacking stereotype. And their relationships with one another reveal their longings, their failings, and their complexities---especially in the forms of love.

The latter half of the novel becomes an expedition into the Barrens of Yellowknife, a lovely, yet detailed and intelligent view of a land rarely visited or seen by man. It weaves Canada’s historical pioneering heroes while documenting the northern wilderness. At the same time, the characters themselves experience the glory of its vastness, abundance, and beauty, while resisting and overcoming its treachery and harshness. It is a story about journeying, crossing boundaries, and surviving. Not only in the extreme climates of the northern wilderness, but also of the extreme climates of relationship and love. The characters who you come to care for are intelligent, witty, passionate, humbling, and resilient.
It’s a beautiful and beautifully written novel. ( )
  ZaraD.Garcia-Alvarez | Jun 6, 2017 |
Late Nights on Air was the Giller Prize winner for 2007 - and deservedly so.

Elizabeth Hay creates a group of characters who work at the radio station in Yellowknife in 1975. They all come from elsewhere - the misfits, the loners, the romantics, the people running away from life. The employees at the station fit into one or more of those categories. Harry, the station manager, has returned to radio after a disastrous attempt at television. Dido, the station’s most popular newsreader, fled her marriage after an ill-conceived affair with her father-in-law, only to find herself caught between the affections of Harry and Eddy, the station’s 'bad boy' engineer. Ralph has deep feelings for Eleanor, another refugee from a bad marriage. Gwen turns up in Yellowknife drawn north by childhood memories of a radio program about northern explorer John Hornby. (side note - read more about Hornsby - his expeditions sound fascinating). She dreams of a career in radio, only to find herself paralyzed by shyness and assigned to late night radio where her stammering won't be an issue.

Harry, Gwen, Eleanor and Ralph embark on a 6 weeks-long life-changing canoeing trip to retrace Hornsby's fatal expedition. The beauty of the North, the scenery, the quiet, the seduction, the underlying danger becomes a compelling fifth character on this trip.

Their lives are played out against the backdrop of Justice Thomas Berger's commission on the proposed building of the MacKenzie pipeline through the Yukon. Berger spent three years truly listening to all, going from native village to village, compiled 40,000 pages of testimony, and recommended “no pipeline now, and no pipeline across northern Yukon ever.”

Are you listening, Justin Trudeau!!??

Elizabeth Hay has written a wonderful book, peopled by characters that will stay with me. ( )
  EvelynBernard | Dec 3, 2016 |
A very good and memorable read. A glimpse at northern Canadian life.I would recommend this one. ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |
[Late Nights on Air] by [Elizabeth Hay] takes place in 1975 in Northern Canada and revolves around people who work at a radio station with very few listeners. The characters are primarily station employees. They include the beautiful, seductive and talented Dido, shy Gwen who drove 3000 miles through remote Canada alone looking for a job, and Eleanor who has been in Yellowknife the longest and is realizing it's time to move on.

The employees think the first television station coming to Yellowknife will change their lives. Before that can happen, a canoe trip taken by four of the employees becomes a fateful turning point.

I was impatient with the book at first but stayed with it and I'm glad I did. The characters are quirky and the ending unexpected. I like those things. ( )
  clue | Jul 20, 2016 |
I enjoyed this book about people at a radio station in the Canadian North. I especially liked the interactions between the characters and the life-changing trip some of them make. ( )
  krin5292 | Nov 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
This book will no doubt be remembered as Hay’s “Yellowknife novel” or even her “radio novel” – it follows the lives of a handful of people running a northern CBC station in the 1970s. The characters’ various hang-ups are magnified and elevated by the lonely vastness....That city crops up in many of Hay’s works, through explorations of Canadian history and through what she calls a north-south/hot-cold fixation. But this novel is the first time she explores the territory deeply, as much as she explores the medium of radio deeply. “What actually was on my mind more than Yellowknife was the whole dilemma of shyness,” she says. “For some strange reason, shy people are frequently drawn to radio as a workplace...That effort has culminated in Late Nights on Air, with its adventure, entanglements, and suspense. But the book also has plenty of emotional insight
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Harry was in his little house on the edge of Back Bay when at half past twelve her voice came over the radio for the first time.
Harry confessed he had no sense of direction. He told Eleanor about he infamous night in Toronto when he went to play poker at a buddy's house for the umpteenth time, but walked into another house entirely, on a different block. "I was hanging up my coat when the owner came out of the kitchen. I figured he had to be the new player. So I said, 'Where's the booze?'"
She thought how changeable and infinitely various the air is, and how she was being paid to cram it to the gills with talk, to bury it under endless information, and she couldn't do it any more.
Lying on the ground, being reshaped, was like lying awake beside a new husband
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0771038119, Hardcover)

The eagerly anticipated novel from the bestselling author of A Student of Weather and Garbo Laughs.

Harry Boyd, a hard-bitten refugee from failure in Toronto television, has returned to a small radio station in the Canadian North. There, in Yellowknife, in the summer of 1975, he falls in love with a voice on air, though the real woman, Dido Paris, is both a surprise and even more than he imagined.

Dido and Harry are part of the cast of eccentric, utterly loveable characters, all transplants from elsewhere, who form an unlikely group at the station. Their loves and longings, their rivalries and entanglements, the stories of their pasts and what brought each of them to the North, form the centre. One summer, on a canoe trip four of them make into the Arctic wilderness (following in the steps of the legendary Englishman John Hornby, who, along with his small party, starved to death in the barrens in 1927), they find the balance of love shifting, much as the balance of power in the North is being changed by the proposed Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline, which threatens to displace Native people from their land.

Elizabeth Hay has been compared to Annie Proulx, Alice Hoffman, and Isabel Allende, yet she is uniquely herself. With unforgettable characters, vividly evoked settings, in this new novel, Hay brings to bear her skewering intelligence into the frailties of the human heart and her ability to tell a spellbinding story. Written in gorgeous prose, laced with dark humour, Late Nights on Air is Hay’s most seductive and accomplished novel yet.

On the shortest night of the year, a golden evening without end, Dido climbed the wooden steps to Pilot’s Monument on top of the great Rock that formed the heart of old Yellowknife. In the Netherlands the light was long and gradual too, but more meadowy, more watery, or else hazier, depending on where you were. . . . Here, it was subarctic desert, virtually unpopulated, and the light was uniformly clear.

On the road below, a small man in a black beret was bending over his tripod just as her father used to bend over his tape recorder. Her father’s voice had become the wallpaper inside her skull, he’d made a home for himself there as improvised and unexpected as these little houses on the side of the Rock — houses with histories of instability, of changing from gambling den to barber shop to sheet metal shop to private home, and of being moved from one part of town to another since they had no foundations.

From Late Nights On Air

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A psychologically astute study of love, power, rivalry and friendship in a remote radio station in the furthest reaches of Northern Canada. Originally published: U.S.: Counterpoint, 2007; London: MacLehose, 2008.

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