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The Night Stages

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  968 ratings  ·  211 reviews
Set mainly in a remote area of County Kerry in the ’40s and ’50s, Jane Urquhart’s stunning new novel is at once intimate and epic in scope. Tam, an English woman in her thirties, has been living in this harshly beautiful region since shortly after the war, in which she served as an auxiliary pilot. She is now leaving her lover, Niall, who, like his father before him, is a ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by McClelland & Stewart
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Average rating 3.54  · 
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Roger Brunyate
Imagine picking this up in a bookstore, as if from an unknown author, and opening a page at random: "This is what Keiran could not see as the road under his wheels rose through the haze toward the top of the headland. He could not see Ballinskelligs Bay, or Horse Island curving like a smile in its centre, or the old castle walls on a smaller island near the shore. He could not see the ruined abbey or the many graves that surrounded it, the cliffs that stood angry and dark, and the inlets that na ...more
I felt somewhat embarrassed about my initial impulse to give this book a two-star rating. Being a "newbie" reviewer, any attempt on my part to assess a seasoned author like Jane Urquhart -- one of the "sweethearts" of CanLit -- seems presumptuous. Add to that the fact that, in an interview with Times Colonist reviewer Adrian Chamberlain, Urquhart confessed to having reached "a liberating stage where her chief concern is to please herself" (, I can't help ...more
Friederike Knabe
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, engaging, moving, achingly beautiful language, poetry in motion...

Old man Kirby is a fisherman and a poet - but only when he thinks in Irish - or possibly a painter, when he thinks in English. What he can evidently do in both languages is give wise counsel, especially to young and wild Kieran. And, if he had met the other central characters in Jane Urquhart's stunning new novel, they could have learned a thing or two from him also. Take the image of "riding the donkey of the imaginat
switterbug (Betsey)
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
“Kenneth’s [Lochhead, the Canadian artist] shadow is a thin ghost on the quay. But there are thousands and thousands of miles inside him.”

This passage, to me, is a poignant metaphor for Urquhart’s latest novel, which takes place largely in Ireland, with a layover in Gander, Newfoundland. The central characters could be said to be ghosts of their selves, almost stand-ins for the miles of revenant other selves that live within, and haunt them. They are living half-filled lives, with a past that i
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
While still under the spell of my recent Ring of Kerry vacation, with its lakes and mountains, brilliant yellow firs and emerald fields, seaside villages and old monasteries dancing in my brain, I immersed myself in The Night Stages…frankly, hoping to prolong the magic of my trip.

And indeed, Jane Urquhart knows her territory, literally and figuratively. A poet herself, Ms. Urquhart’s tale of sibling rivalry and Irish legacy is exquisitely and lyrically written, a homage to southwest Ireland embo
Lisa Nikolits
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful book. It's my favourite read of 2015 and it's going to be a hard one to top! Here are two passages that I loved - I hope they'll give you a good idea of how lovely this book is…

"I want you to be able to name everything, animate and inanimate, that you cycle past, and be grateful for most of it, and outraged at that which no sane man would be grateful for."

"The future is the geography with which we are sometimes most intimate, having gone over every version of it inch by inch in
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
I was looking for a good read, a good story that wasn't too heavy, but not too fluffy. I found that here in The Night Stages. An inventive story really that contained truly beautiful writing, sometimes dream-like. But I also felt like the story or people in it weren't fully realized and the inventive story started to drag on and not connect with me, or keep my interest until the end.
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Night Stages is another lyrical accomplishment by Jane Urquhart, inventor of myths and legends and songs that one carries in the heart for a lifetime. Once again, I am delighted with the journey: she's led me through the fog and mists of the heart, seeking love in its many forms, sometimes finding it, and sometimes falling far short of the prize. One becomes as possessed as a revenant by the haunting beauty of the pilgrimage.

The duality of possession: of holding something concrete in one's h
Lara Maynard
This is a densely layered book. The editor in me wanted to pull this book apart into two different sections, leaving one as the story of Kieran and his family and building a whole novel around that. And the second would be a novella about the artist Kenneth Lochhead and the Gander Airport mural. That said, I thought the whole thing was a bit brilliant, and I get what Urqhuart is up to with this exploration of the creative process.

Protagonist Tamara is a former WWII auxiliary pilot with a talent
Michele Weiner
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Jane Urquhart is one of Canada's most beloved authors, according the the blurb on Amazon--an award winning author and a poet. I haven't read her other work, but I think The Night Stages is an epic fail. The story is contrived, built around a mural painted by one of "Canada's best painters", Kenneth somebody. The mural sits in the Gander airport in Newfoundland, which at one time was a major refueling stop for commercial airliners flying to and from Europe. You may remember it as the place that m ...more
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
As I read, I veered between 'liking' this novel, and at least being appreciative of Urquhart's use of language, and being rather guiltily bored and impatient. A very stately tale, its themes are writ much more firmly than its characters or its plot. It's set in Ireland and Canada, in the 1940s through I would say the early 1960s. A woman is fogged in for several days at Gander airport after a transatlantic flight from Ireland. Through a series of recollections, we learn of her background, and of ...more
Cher Staite
May 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
There was no beginning nor no end with this book....nor for characters or for reader.

Descriptions of countryside were lovely.
One or two of the characters were somewhat described but their storylines were weak and kept bouncing around. Every time I thought something might happen more beautiful descriptions of countryside took over.

I cared what happened to the the two main characters.
I cared about their relationships and I stuck with it to the bitter end wanting at least one of them to triumph.
Jun 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: can-con, irishfic, 2015
We called the evening drinks the Night Stages and found that powerfully amusing...(T)he race was divided into eight stages. “A series of punishing distances,” he said. “Like stations of the cross.” The nightly sessions in the bar were an antidote of sorts to the day's suffering and, he added, an acknowledgement of more to come.

Jane Urquhart's The Night Stages weaves together three disparate plotlines, from three different points of view, and provides a glimpse into three worlds of which I ha
Alexander Kosoris
Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It feels like quite some time since a book came along and both delighted me and terrified me through its superb writing, making me glad that high art still exists in contemporary Canadian literature, though worried that I’m nowhere near creating anything comparable in quality. It should go without saying, then––but I’ll say it anyway––that Urquhart’s masterpiece is fabulous in every sense of the word.

The story follows multiple characters through interweaving plotlines. Tam, who was an auxiliary
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written story of the lives of two brothers Niall and Kieran, Tamara a lover of Niall, and an artist who has painted a mural in the Gander New Foundland airport. How the stories part and intersect makes up the magic of this book. The countryside of Ireland is described in detail, taking the reader on a journey with one brother Kieran as he prepares for a cross country bike race. Kieran has been estranged from his family but finds peace for himself as he rides the back roads in prepa ...more
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone I know
I loved this book so much. It's dense. I was reading books a day at a time. Page turners: mysteries, quick dramas. I couldn't do that with The Night Stages. This book demanded a certain kind of attention.

My husband and I are going to Ireland soon. I didn't know that when I started, but having visited this part of Ireland before, I was caught immediately...and still...the writing and the complexity of the book demanded a bit of thoughtfulness I haven't needed as I've read books for the Popsugar
Orla Hegarty
The book wanders through England, Ireland, Newfoundland (GANDER!), Canada and the US and Europe. Set in post WWII, mostly. A bit artsy. A bit folklore. A bit love story.

I really enjoyed it.
Feb 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received a free advance copy of "The Night Stages" through a Goodreads giveaway.

This is a beautifully written book that tied together the lives of Kenneth Lochhead, the real-life artist who painted the mural at the Gander Airport; Tam, a former English pilot who, as a passenger, is laid over in Gander during a flight from Ireland to New York; Niall, the Irish meteorologist she is leaving behind; and Kieran, Niall's complex and troubled younger brother.

Kieran's character, by far, is the most fl
I read this for a book club, which means that I started it on the day the book club was meeting and didn't finish it in time, and perhaps if I hadn't been rushing so much I would have been able to relax and enjoy it more, or perhaps if I didn't get as far as I had I wouldn't have bothered finishing it this morning. Hard to say.

This is the second Urquhart novel I've read, and while Away was alright in retrospect, it was more for other readers than myself. Like, when I read it I was actually someo
May 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: canadian
I feel rather mean only giving this three stars as it is a lovely read: nuanced, layered and full of gorgeous writing. But Urquhart simply crams too much in, her various narrative strands often feeling like pieces from different puzzles that refuse to entirely cohere, the result being that her message becomes somewhat lost. The novel is also slightly uneven in that only one strand (Kieran's) feels fully realised; the characters elsewhere feel underdeveloped in comparison. I was very interested i ...more
Lauren Nisbet
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
When the back cover of a book describes it as ‘at once intimate and epic in scope’, I’m going into it with a certain set of expectations. I’m looking for a story that will have characters with engaging personalities, or at least characters who I will be able to get to know, whose personal lives will pull me in and make me care about what happens to them and where they end up. I’m looking for a story that spans different generations, different times, different places, all of which are connected b ...more
Feb 08, 2015 rated it liked it
I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book and am writing this unbiased, unsolicited review.
This was the first book I have read by Jane Urquhart so I didn't know what to expect. I love stories that have characters whose lives intersect and overlap with each other in ways both expected and unexpected. This was the case in this novel and I was surprised to like the secondary character of Kieran more than I liked the main character Tamara. I found her lacking depth and her fascination with air
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
If I had written this book I would be supremely satisfied with my life even if no other person read it.

Jane Urquhart writes like a dream. Each scene felt poetic and I slowly savoured each one, before emerging foggily back in the real world.

Set primarily in Ireland following World War II, the countryside provides a lush backdrop for the longing of Tam, a transplanted English woman who misses her flying days, for her illicit lover. His brother, though, the mysterious Kieran shines brightest in th
Tammy Lee
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
I received this ARC from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. How exciting it was for me to have the opportunity to read the newest from one of my favorite literary fiction authors before the publication date!

The Night Stages is vividly written; the story, and the characters, run parallel to each other. The chapters alternate between time and perspective of individual characters, putting the story (and understanding each character) together like pieces of a puzzle. An in-depth read that is vibrant,
Donna Wellard
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
a gorgeously written novel about connections, Ireland, art, sibling rivalry and a bicycle race. It's a quiet, powerful story full of lush language that slowly builds as it relays the intersecting memories of Tam and Niall, Niall and Kieran and the artist Kenneth Lochhead. it has such intensity, weaving its way between time and place and the hearts of the characters. In awe and reminded once again why Jane Urquhart is one of my very favourite authors. Oh and that mural in Gander airport by the ar ...more
May 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Jane Urquhart is one of my favorite writers and I found this book difficult to rate. I love Jane's artistic writing style. I love the pictures she creates and appreciate her beautiful prose. This is not a page turner; I found it difficult to reconcile the Tam of current day with the brave, strong and bright Tam of her youth when she taxied airplanes during the war. I enjoyed Tam's observations of the mural in the Gander airport and tried to relate them to the characters in the story. I enjoyed f ...more
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jane Urquhart's skill in combining emotion, story, setting and character drew me quickly into this story. A woman in flight from a broken relationship in Ireland stranded at Gander airport gazes at a mural and projects parts of her life story onto it. Other characters emerge, all of them wounded and bent on escape as she is. I loved her descriptions of Ireland, the capturing of tenderness in loving relationships along with angst of her characters and the masterful weaving of lives once joined an ...more
Apr 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Beautiful writing. Urquhart can write such gorgeous descriptions of anything, it seems, she puts her mind to. I found the novel a little slow to engage me, but by half way through the book, I was hooked on the characters and their stories. I was disappointed, however, that all the stories didn't eventually tie together. I don't want to give anything away, but I found that a huge downfall of the book.. Overall, however, it was a lovely read.
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A mural by Kenneth Lochhead on the wall in the international airport at Gander Nfld (where people are constantly moving in and out) provides an architecture for Urquhart's depiction of life's mural. People/ places move in and out of our lives and even when seemingly disconnected influence our personal worlds. I love how Urquhart uses real art to frame her stories:)
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Another exceptional novel from beloved author, Jane Urquhart. I was nearly finished the book before I discovered the source of the title - the night stages! Ireland, aviation, weather prediction, cycling, painting murals, family, love and loss. It is all here. This book deserves a higher rating, so "read it" and be immersed in Canadian literature at its finest!
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She is the author of seven internationally acclaimed novels entitled, The Whirlpool, Changing Heaven, Away, The Underpainter, The Stone Carvers, A Map of Glass, and Sanctuary Line.

The Whirlpool received the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (Best Foreign Book Award). Away was winner of the Trillium Book Award and a finalist for the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The Un

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