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Late Nights on Air

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  8,742 Ratings  ·  576 Reviews
A psychologically astute study of love, power, rivalry and friendship in a remote radio station in the furthest reaches of Northern Canada.
Paperback, 308 pages
Published June 1st 2009 by Maclehose Press Quercus (first published September 18th 2007)
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Diane Barnes
Nov 25, 2015 Diane Barnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you like fast paced, action filled, plot driven novels, this this is not your book. However, if you, like myself, love beautiful prose, slowly mounting realizations, characters you come to know and love little by little, and immersion into their lives and the story being told, grab this book and don't let go until you finish the last wonderful page.
It takes place in the wilds of northern Canada in 1975, at a small radio station in Yellowknife. Harry Boyd is the station manager, overseeing the
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
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
Mary S
Feb 05, 2009 Mary S rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 10, 2009 Zinta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Hannah Holborn
May 14, 2008 Hannah Holborn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 25, 2014 Joyce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Autumn Chrunik
I love that this book is set in Canada and is written by a Canadian author, but I can't get into the story. I didn't understand it and did not feel any connection to the characters. And when I paused to stop reading it for a few days, it made me not want to pick up it up again, or try anything else. This one sadly, just isn't for me.
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
Dec 02, 2013 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I just couldn't possibly care any less for a single person in this novel.
Carol ♔Type, Oh Queen!♕
Abandoned with some relief at 66%

I was born in Canada & have family who moved to & had some success in Yellowknife. I've consciously (I'm sure I read a few books where I didn't know the author's nationality!)read very few Canadian authors, other than Margaret Atwood and L M Montgomery. I really wanted to like this book!

Unfortunately the language is beautiful but empty & the plot (if you could call it that) moves at the speed of concrete. Other than Harry I never cared about any of th
Dec 10, 2015 Shauna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't know how this won the Giller Prize. The selection must have been pretty dismal.
Cliche characters (an "ugly duckling"-type girl getting a haircut and suddenly being beautiful), and even more cliche themes (an abused woman coming to work with dark sunglasses on, and later falling for the man she initially found repulsive), and the worst sex scene(s) I have ever read (his penis was like an O Henry bar...what?!?). Worse than all of this were the author's high school English class attempts a
Jul 11, 2008 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Mar 19, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Apr 08, 2014 Jerrie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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?????
Jennifer Blair
Dec 02, 2015 Jennifer Blair rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made me want to pack my bags, catch the first plane to the Yukon, and leave everything behind. Beautifully written, endlessly fascinating, and deeply poignant, Late Nights on Air was just the escape I needed right now.
Feb 27, 2013 Krista rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, can-con
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
Sep 20, 2014 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Friederike Knabe
Jun 22, 2011 Friederike Knabe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-lit
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
Danny Lindsay
As a self-loathing Canadian (only in terms of our literature and jingoistic beer commercials), I was skeptical going in, since this book seemed like it might be a Canadian Novel (which is not the same thing as a novel by a Canadian author). Canadian Novels feature dull, reactive protagonists who let their lives happen to them, who are sentimental and emotional yet reticent, and who often have some kind of buried trauma. Boring losers, basically. And this book has many other features of the Canad ...more
Dec 01, 2014 Peggy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Sep 08, 2015 Erika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cultural, canadian
I really wanted to love this book...

I love reading about Canada and I especially love reading it from the view of fellow Canadians. I really enjoyed the character building and the interactions between the characters but I felt that so many stories could have been written instead of only the one. It's as if there were five or six different, partially developed, stories going on that were only half developed and Hay just found a way to connect all the Protagonists in each one, together, as if the
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
Carolyn James
Mar 13, 2015 Carolyn James rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I found this book to be tedious and boring. I wish I could support a fellow Canadian, but this novel does the one thing I can't stand with certain Canadian novels. I hate being hit over the head with reminding the reader that this novel takes place in Canada.

"Here we see a moose while we portage in canoes, that's what we do in Canada"
"I'm going to describe the ways the snow can isolate you, we have a lot of snow in Canada"
"Let me name 20+ Canadian cities, maybe the more places I name drop the mo
Shirley Schwartz
Nov 25, 2010 Shirley Schwartz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: prize-winners
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
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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 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.” 15 likes
“You stand next to the sea and you're in touch with all your longings and all your losses.” 12 likes
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