Sunday 27 July 2008

Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay

latenightsonair-elizabethhay.jpgPublished by Random House Canada

It's the year 1975 and we join the characters of this novel in a radio station situated in the Canadian North - Yellowknife to be exact. We first meet Harry who is filled with a love for Radio. One night while listening, he hears a new voice and falls head over heels for the woman to who it belongs. Dido is a unique woman who has arrived at Yellowknife shrouded in mystery, a woman who seems to have an enchanting quality making her irresistible to those around her. Gwen also works at the station and seems very quiet, and unsure but eager to make a new life for herself. These three are just a sample of the characters who I cannot define in a way that brings them justice.

The novel covers the lives of a hugely diverse cast of characters, first within the radio station and later, when a group of 4 take a trip into the arctic wilderness, following the route of the legendary Englishman John Hornby. With the knowledge that Hornby and the rest of his party had starved to death during their expedition, the journey is looked upon as somewhat of a challenge but I don't think the adventurous group have any idea just how life-changing an event it will be.

The novel also has the background of the controversial Mackenzie Valley pipeline that threatens to separate the natives from their land, and destroy what has become a unique community. With politics, love, adventure, soul-searching, loss, mystery and so much more, Elizabeth Hay has created a masterpiece that is a truly satisfying read.

I can't believe I waited so long to read this novel. I know many of you who are reading this review, have likely already read this title, but if you haven't, you ought to. I have not read anything by Elizabeth Hay before but if the rest of her books are as incredible as Late Nights on Air, you can expect to see me review more in the future. This author has a true gift for storytelling.

I found myself constantly amazed by how the author writes a novel that seems so stark and sparse while simultaneously providing a great deal of intricate detail. The characters are so raw and seemingly unfinished which made a much-welcomed change from the norm. By that, I mean that there are never excuses made for their behaviours, explanations are lacking, and it adds a fantastic quality which greatly enhanced my enjoyment of this book.

The author leads the reader through the novel in a winding, twisting manner. I found myself trying to guess what was about to unfold but i rarely got it right. I love when an author can hide the ending so successfully. It's a novel that keeps you guessing right until the very end and leaves you longing for more. It says a great deal that I found myself wistfully hoping that when I turned the final pages, I wouldn't find the author's acknowledgment just yet, but still more of this engaging tale. The writing style is beautiful, seductive, poetic even and I know there were more than a couple of occasions where I read passages out loud simply because I wanted to see for myself if they sounded as delectable as they looked to be. (They were)

A must read. It was simply fantastic.

Author's website:


trish said...

Wow! That book does sound good! I've added it to my bookmooch wishlist. :-)

Charlene Martel said...

I look forward to reading your thoughts on it when done. It's one of my favourite reads I think. I know I will be reading it again this winter. It's the perfect book to curl up with.