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Late Nights on Air

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  7,091 ratings  ·  491 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
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Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Counterpoint (first published September 18th 2007)
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Maciek
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
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Connie
Elizabeth Hay worked as a radio broadcaster in Yellowknife forty years ago, and she revisits that isolated area in Late Nights on Air. Set in 1975, it was a time when radio was being replaced by television. The environment and the northern way of life was also being threatened by a proposal to cross the frozen Canadian tundra with a gas pipeline.

The radio station employees are imperfect people who are searching for what they want in life. Some have traveled from more southern areas, hoping to fi
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Wanda
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
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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
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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
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Joyce
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
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.
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
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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
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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
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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.
Lisa
I just couldn't possibly care any less for a single person in this novel.
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
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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
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
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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
Terry
A group of characters work together at a radio station in Yellowknife, NWT, in the summer of 1975. Harry Boyd, Dido, Eddy, Eleanor, Gwen, Ralph.

These are the main five characters, but others appear occasionally, each crisply drawn and given life. The book chronicles story of their lives together working at the station over a year. The reader experiences their shifting friendships and loyalties. Each major character is given time as the viewpoint character. Their personalities and motives are exp
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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
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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
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Christa
Late Nights on Air sounded very promising, but I was slightly disappointed in the story. I have never read another book with so much foreshadowing. There were many hints that something tragic was going to happen, and I could have done with less of this. The foreshadowing made the events seem almost anticlimatic when they did happen. Most of the characters in this book about employees at a radio station were not really likeable, which affected my enjoyment of the book. The setting, Yellowknife, C ...more
Peggy
This was a lucky coincidence. I'd read her previous novels and took this from a friend's back porch months ago. Then it got stuck on a shelf, probably when I vacuumed sometime. Preparing for a weekend in Victoria, B.C. I took along the book and immediately realized it was perfect. The novel is set in the northern reaches of Canada, nowhere near where I was in Victoria, but just crossing by ferry had put me in world where it wasn't Thanksgiving and the newspapers had Canadian news in its top head ...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
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?
Angie
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
Kristine Morris
Without a doubt Elizabeth Hay has a beautiful way with words. The comments made on Goodreads suggest that some who did not especially like the story could still appreciate the writing. I read the first half of this novel in one sitting and only stopped because it was 2 am. I enjoyed being introduced to the cast of characters and to the city of Yellowknife. There was also something nostalgic in reading about the CBC Radio in its heyday. I imagine if you had no relationship with CBC radio this asp ...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
book.
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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
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“She would always be living her life backwards, she realized, trying to regain something perfect that she'd lost.” 13 likes
“You stand next to the sea and you're in touch with all your longings and all your losses.” 11 likes
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