Late Nights on Air
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Late Nights on Air

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  4,967 ratings  ·  431 reviews
It’s 1975 when beautiful Dido Paris arrives at the radio station in Yellowknife, a frontier town in the Canadian north. She disarms hard-bitten broadcaster Harry Boyd and electrifies the station, setting into motion rivalries both professional and sexual.

As the drama at the station unfolds, a proposed gas pipeline threatens to rip open the land and inspires many people to...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Counterpoint (first published September 18th 2007)
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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.
Zinta
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
Bonnie
I laughed and I cried and I marvelled and I kept reading in one long sitting.

Very deserving of The Giller, in my opinion.
Jerrie
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
Kathy
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
Sarah
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
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
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
Shannon
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
Tony
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
Karen
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
Kate
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?
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
book.
Christine
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.
Lisa
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
Christie
“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
Yvonne
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
Krista
I find myself slightly annoyed after reading Late Nights on Air. I've never been up to the Territories but have long been slightly fascinated by the North: I would love to go on one of those Polar Bear tours up in Churchill, or see the Northern Lights in Whitehorse, or witness the Caribou migration (as described here) outside of Yellowknife. I also know that I am too intimidated by the wilderness, and the wildlife in it, to ever attempt the epic canoe trip described in this book; in fact I'm too...more
Zara
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 beco...more
Sharon
I must confess a special affection for Canadian literature, especially when an author emphasizes what it means to live in a country of stark landscape and even starker weather. This book contains plenty of Canadian icons: the Yukon, the weather, CBC radio, First Nations and connection with traditional ways of life, the McKenzie Pipeline debate (the beginning of oil and gas development in Canada), the misfits who so often gravitate to Canada's sparsely populated landscapes. And typical of life in...more
Pang
This book, unfortunately, was a meh for me. It got off on a bad note with me, taking me a while to get into the story. Unlike other recent books, it couldn't convince me to like it more.

The story took place in Yellowknife, northern Canada, and it revolved around four main characters: Harry, Dido, Gwen and Eleanor. Each character had some emptiness inside their soul and was looking for something and/or someone to fill the void. Dido chose not to find herself but rather to lose herself into an unh...more
Jan

First of all, this is not a true story, but it really feels to me like it could have been.
I was introduced to the writings of Elizabeth Hay a few months ago. I must say, I love her writing style. The plot is strong enough to allow for stories within stories . The little side trips she takes us on with these stories help flesh out the characters and make them seem so very real to me. For example, while involved in a conversation, a phrase made by the first character will remind the second charac...more
Daniela
Although I quite liked this book, I do have some criticisms. The first two thirds of the book is very character driven. An interesting group of individuals working at a radio station in Yellowknife during the mid 70s’; Hay does a great job of portraying life in a northern Canadian community. You could almost feel the cold and loneliness. I loved the characters, but the plot seemed to meander. Two characters (Dido and Eddy) were so mysterious and had almost an “evil” feel to them and yet Hay didn...more
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CBC Books: * 2007 - Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay 1 10 Aug 31, 2013 01:08PM  
CBC Books: December '12 - Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay 53 71 Dec 23, 2012 12:15PM  
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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...
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“She would always be living her life backwards, she realized, trying to regain something perfect that she'd lost.” 10 likes
“You stand next to the sea and you're in touch with all your longings and all your losses.” 8 likes
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