Late Nights on Air
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Late Nights on Air

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  5,239 ratings  ·  442 reviews
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 ev...more
Paperback, 364 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Emblem Editions (first published September 18th 2007)
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I'm surprised that this novel won the Giller Prize - one of Canada's most prestigious literary awards. The pacing is glacial, the characters uninteresting, and there's no real plot; the whole book is a collection of situations which happen to the cast, and since we have no real reason to care about any of them there's little to make us want to turn the page. Late Nights on Air is simply not compelling, and I almost didn't finish reading it.

I was drawn to the book because of its premise: a novel...more
Mary S
I almost didn't finish this book. The first 60 pages were tiresome to drag myself through. Then Ms. Hay caught me with something so "Northern Canada" that I was immediately hooked. It was a print out of messages that CBC used to read over the air -- things like " Joe Blogs, get in touch with the RCMP at Fort Rae for an urgent message from your brother Ron." or "To the Blogs family, Resolute Bay. Jannie had her baby. A boy, 7 lbs 2 ounces. Mom and baby are doing well and say hi."

I lived for a sho...more
Hannah Holborn
A character in Elizabeth's book describes good script writing as having simplicity, directness, and intimacy. Late Night on Air achieves all three. Whether we love or hate the main characters by the end of the book, we also know them as well as our own skin. And we know something of the north--its timeless fragility, and its ability to both save and destroy those who venture there.
You can’t get much more Canadian than this novel—it is written by a former CBC employee, it involves the national radio service, there are questions of identity, there is self-discovery through a wilderness trip, and it takes place in the North, mythologized by all of us southern Canadians.

Two young women, Gwen and Dido, come to Yellowknife to craft lives and identities for themselves through working on the radio. I related to Gwen’s search for herself through her radio work, having worked a ver...more
You’ve heard it said, “hurts so good.” About the writing style of Elizabeth Hay, I can say: cuts so soft. Her words, her turn of phrase, her sweet sentence construction, it is as precise and expertly sculpted as with a sculptor’s chisel or a surgeon’s scalpel. Yet soft. The sharpest knife enters your flesh with hardly more than a red line—and finds its target. The heart. The reader’s mind. There are no ragged edges here.

The setting for this novel intrigued me right away. The book was a choice i...more
I laughed and I cried and I marvelled and I kept reading in one long sitting.

Very deserving of The Giller, in my opinion.
switterbug (Betsey)
"...this summer of 1975 took on the mythical quality of a cloudless summer before the outbreak of war, or before the onset of the kind of restlessness, social, spiritual, that remakes the world."

In the Canadian Northwest territories, a place of harsh winters and summers of unrelenting light, the hamlet of Yellowknife remains like an anachronism. Population ten thousand, including native people that have lived on this land for thousands of years; it was their flesh and blood. Now the Mackenzie Pi...more
This book charms and takes you places you had no idea you were going. For one thing, it takes place in a place I've never been in story or reality. I liked the reality of the characters. No sugarcoating. No fear of really revealing. The style is also interesting. Brushstrokes of scenes and move on. Really fresh. It's a great story; one you think about afterwards and the ending is satisfying. What more can anyone ask?????
Carole Moran
Not only did I positively dislike this book, I was downright angry by the time I tossed it aside, unfinished. It was recommended by my husband, which is why I tried to read it, but certainly not my kind of thing. I don't know if it's good literature or not, but I've read some good literature in my life and this doesn't even compare--in style, in interest, in anything.

There appears to be no story, no plot. Just a wandering account of people living in Yellowknife, Northwest Territory, Canada. It...more
Aaah, like the tiny beautiful artic flowers, this is a finely woven tale. The characters are all searching for themselves in this most northern landscape where the air, light, sounds and silence are like no other. One could look at this landscape and see little but harshness, nothingness, cold or one could marvel in the beauty of life on small and vast scale, hear the wind speak and connect with the environment and others. The four main characters journey together and separately and each changes...more
I admit that I have an affection for Canadian writers. This is a beautifully written book, the characters are rendered in much detail and the plot is believable. I liked the world she creates in her story and the setting of the radio station is interesting.

Once I bought the book and looked at the author's photo I think that I may have met her when I was in Canada attending a music workshop. There were a bunch of writers who were also having a workshop in the same space. Funny coincidence.

A real...more
Have I mentioned that I love Elizabeth Hay? Because I do!

Normally, I can't stand anecdotes and asides. I prefer to settle into a narrative. But Hay has turned disparate and fragmented stories--some true!--into a symphony of voices, all beautifully, poignantly intertwined.

A Student of Weather is still my favorite of hers, but I can see why this one has been so well received.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I spent more than half of this book wondering what the ScotiabankGiller prize people were thinking. Divisadero was in the running. But Ondaatje's book takes place in the US and France. By the time I got to last 1/3 of Late Nights, I realized it gives us a picture of the far north probably not often found, and I think it was this that tipped it in the judges' favor.

That last 1/3 makes it worth ploughing through the beginning, which is uneven. At the beginning, the three main women were not disti...more
Toni Osborne
In early 70's, Harry Boyd returns to Yellowknife to work at the local radio station, there he falls in love with Dido Paris, a novice broadcasters with a voice "like a tarnished silver spoon". Both are part of a cast of loveable eccentrics at the station. Reviving their pasts and what attracted them to the North is the centre of this story. Several affairs are set among the station staff and the story extends into the landscape where four of them embark on a six week canoe trip exploring the Art...more
Friederike Knabe
Elizabeth Hay's novel starts in 1975 and uses the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry in 1975-1977 - an inquiry into the perspectives of the different groups of people living in the Canadian North and those coming there for work or business purposes - as a kind of backdrop to her award-winning novel. Her focus, however, is a group of radio journalists, some 'old hand', some new arrivals, some local, others from the South, all working with the Northern Service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporati...more
This book doesn't get much more Canadian: the Yukon, the weather, CBC radio and misfits and I almost forgot the McKenzie Pipeline Berger Commission. The descriptions of the weather make the weather one of the strongest characters in the book.

Unfortunately, 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 li...more
Judy Mann
Page 133- and I'm packing it in. This is the second book of Elizabeth Hay's that I have really wanted to like but I just cannot do it. This book just misses so badly.
I lived in the far north in the mid seventies as well and she is way off. She makes it sound like a cozy kaffeklatsch where all these DEEP and thoughtful people meet oh- just to talk.It was not like that at all.
It was a whole lot of Indians hating the whites and a whole lot of whites being scared out of their minds of the Indians wh...more
Shirley Schwartz
This book seems deceptively simple and folksy when you begin, but as you read you come to realize that there is an undercurrent there and that something catastrophic is going to happen sometime. This is a book written by a master character developer. Ms. Hay's characters are so realistic and so wonderful. The setting-Yellowknife NWT in the 1970's is also very unique and is the perfect backdrop for this story. Ms. Hay does not hesitate to explore deep subjects like love, rivalry, jealousy, friend...more
The setting: A radio station in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, 1975. The frozen Canadian north is on the verge of major changes: the arrival of television, oil and gas exploration, heightened tensions between natives and outsiders.
For anyone who has a romantic yearning to go to or return to the northern wilderness, this book evokes all the lonely beauty of the land (and sky). And the author is absolutely on target in her portrayal of the misfits, dreamers, emotional refugees and native peo...more
I enjoyed this book. It had wonderful passages about the North and a good story.

Throughout the entire book Elizabeth Hay allows us to get to know and love the richly-textured characters that come to life. I felt as if I was part of the book as I was reading it. I savoured this book and found myself in awe of the beauty - both sounds and sights that Hay paints. The characters are true to life, which makes the book very readable and believable.

Hay won the prestigious Giller Prize for this work an...more
Daniela Lobo
This book is not what I was expecting at all, even though I should have known it was going to be boring. Just by the title, “Late Nights on Air”. The novel takes place during mid 1970’s in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, and northern Canada. This novel has three main characters: Harry, Dido, and Gwen. Harry, Dido, and Gwen are part of a small radio station. One summer, on a canoe trip they make into the Arctic wilderness they find love shifting power in the North being changed by the g...more
At first enchanting, then mesmerizing, the book unfolds with a dark undercurrent that draws you in. Full, complex characters and threads of meandering plot that build layers of bleakness and aloneness in what I've come to think of as a uniquely, and quintessentially, Canadian way.

This might be appreciated more by radiophiles, particularly those with a sense of nostalgia for the glory days of the CBC. Am I mistaken in hearing the voice of Peter Gzowski when I read Harry Boyd's words?
I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5. It won the Giller Prize in 2007 and it is on CBC's list of the best 100 Canadian novels. This is the first novel by Elizabeth Hay I have read and I loved it. It takes place in 1976 in Yellowknife and it is told from the viewpoint of several people, all who have come to the north looking for something. The true story of explorer John Hornby is also interwoven into this story. In fact the 4 main characters go on a long journey further north to find the cabin wh...more
Jennifer D
elizabeth hay is an amazing writer. seriously beautiful with her prose.
this story made me cry. twice. i don't tend to cry when i read books.
but this is what happens to me when i read her books - i become so
invested in the plot and with the characters that it seems so very real.
the triumphs and tragedies sit with me personally and occupy space
in my heart.

if you are one to time your reads to the seasons, this is a perfect winter
A nice read but not nearly as "exquisite" (at least for me) as the back of the book promised. I did not find the characters terribly "beguiling", nor did I feel like there was any great reveal at the end. I did, however, love her descriptions of the Canadian north. Those WERE compelling.
Fred Ann
The part of the book relating to a radio station brought back memories to me. at one time I was a control room operation in a small radio station and I was very good at editing and splicing tape. I know of the petty jealousies between staff, the station breaks and going on to the network. There was a lot in this book that was meamingful to me! I understood what was being talked about in the story. I found the topic theme current. ie: should a pipeline be built and what disastrous influences woul...more
I just couldn't possibly care any less for a single person in this novel.
Ron Charles
In the good old days, before we had to worry about the Internet killing off everything, we used to worry about the survival of radio. First television drove the industry into the music corner, and then corporate consolidation, rightwing cranks and shock jocks homogenized the dial to death. Let a thousand podcasts bloom, but they can't replace the special intimacy we used to feel late at night in the car or at home -- lonely or missing someone -- listening to the silky voice of a sympathetic deej...more
“Psychologically astute, richly rendered and deftly paced. It’s a pleasure from start to finish.” – Toronto Star

Canadian author Elizabeth Hay won the Giller Prize for her novel, Late Nights on Air. Obviously, you begin a book like this- one with a certain pedigree already attached - with a little trepidation. I mean, what if you hate it?

I am happy to report that this is a beautiful book.

Set in Yellowknife in 1975, the novel tells the story of the intersecting lives of Harry (a CBC radio station...more
This wonderful story won the Canadian Giller Prize in 2007. I am so drawn to novels where the place, the geography, is actually another character in the story. This book is set in the 1970's in Yellowknife, the Yukon. A dazzling land, magnificent in the summer and deadly frozen in the winter. The story centres on the employees of a CBC radio station - Harry who was a big radio personality now king pin in this small fishbowl, Dido who just shows up in the north one day and wows everyone with her...more
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From Elizabeth Hay's web site:
"Elizabeth Hay was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, the daughter of a high school principal and a painter, and one of four children. When she was fifteen, a year in England opened up her world and set her on the path to becoming a writer. She attended the University of Toronto, then moved out west, and in 1974 went north to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. For th...more
More about Elizabeth Hay...
Alone in the Classroom A Student of Weather Garbo Laughs Small Change The Only Snow in Havana

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“She would always be living her life backwards, she realized, trying to regain something perfect that she'd lost.” 11 likes
“You stand next to the sea and you're in touch with all your longings and all your losses.” 9 likes
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