Late Nights on Air – Elizabeth Hay


Late Nights on Air is a beautifully written, gentle and accepting story. It combines fiction with actual historical events; it is a story that flows, allowing the characters to do their thing without judgment, in a stunning yet harsh setting in the far North of Canada.

The story takes place in Yellowknife in the 1970’s, and centers around the employees of the local radio station. It opens with two new arrivals to the station, Dido and Gwen, both seeking time out and drawn to the space of the area, with its surrounding lakes and vast expanses. Also the appeal of creating distance between themselves and the problems they have left behind. The women create a stir with their arrival, the men competing for the attention of Dido with her annonymous, beautiful voice and troubled past.

At this time there is tension brewing in the local community with the proposed construction of a gas pipeline, heavily opposed by many but not all. An enquiry (The Berger enquiry) is set up to examine the effects this gasline would have on the area and is presided over by a local judge. There are people who will lose their land and people who are not prepared to stand by and let that happen.

The seasons are dominant with the long white nights and extremely cold winters and like the seasons the book has a cyclical flowing feel to it – everything simply unfolds.

Later in the book, four of the employees embark on a long, challenging canoe trip into the Artic Barrens, with its impassable ice, accompanied by herds of migrating caribou and the ever present threat of hungry bears. They were inspired by John Hornby an English explorer who had spent most of his life in the region before starving to death with two companions during a misjudged expedition.

None of the characters or events in the book are given extra weight over the other. This is an interesting style which I liked although I do think this is a book that would benefit from being read on its own. I allowed myself to be distracted by more attention grabbing books which disrupted the flow of this one a bit.

Winner of The Giller Prize in 2007

Read for the Themed Reading, 2010 Global and Book Awards challenges

2007, 305 pages

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4 responses to “Late Nights on Air – Elizabeth Hay

  1. I have an earlier book by Elizabeth hay on my bookshelves, but this one sounds good, too. I know what you mean by some books needing uninterrupted attention–I think that’s why I sometimes put off reading something (and then it takes me forever to get to it). I love the cover by the way–it looks so peaceful.

    • Danielle – the cover is lovely isn’t it and peaceful is a good way to describe the story as well. Despite the actual events in the story there is this feeling that everything is ok.

      I also have books to read that I’m waiting for the right time to start and some of them have been waiting for quite a while!

  2. Adding this to my ‘keep an eye out for’ list as it sounds excellent.

  3. Cath – I know what that list is like – mine is ever growing!

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