Thursday 11 April 2019

Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay

Set in the 1970s this is a novel centred on the staff of a radio station in the far north of Canada. This is the time when the future of radio was uncertain due to the rise of television and the future of all the characters feels uncertain due to the isolation and extreme conditions of where they are based as well as the shadow hanging over their careers if they are to remain in radio. At the same time the future of the entire community is uncertain due to a proposed oil pipeline that threatens to cross through the place.

The central part of the novel follows four characters (Eleanor, Gwen, Ralph and Harry) as they undertake a canoe trip following in the wake of early explorers of the area. There are some beautiful descriptions here of the natural wonders that awaken the characters to exactly what stands to be lost if the pipeline goes ahead:

'It was like witnessing the arrival of a myth: the caribou emerged from the land and belonged to it, tentative, purposeful, graceful, shy, their colours buff, brown, pale, grey..... What they were seeing was was the mass arrival of something beautifully recessive and fleeting. They could have missed it just as easily. a few hours one way or the other.'

There was a lot I liked and admired about this novel, but even though I like understated, slow moving writing, I found this was oddly too understated and underwhelming. I felt that the situation with the pipeline deserved to be treated with more emphasis, similarly the moments of peril during the canoeing trip. I wanted to feel more engagement with the plot and with the characters. So ultimately though it's an interesting novel it felt somehow unsatisfactory overall.

Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay published (2007) by McClelland and Stewart using 'ancient forest friendly paper'.


sage said...

I'm sorry that the novel was unsatisfactory as it sounds as if the author had a lot to work with to make a compelling and interesting story... I've read several paddle book set in the northwoods, the landscape is incredible.

eileeninmd said...

Sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the review.

Enjoy your day, have a great weekend ahead!

Magyar said...

__ On TV, viewers see that which was shown, and that could instantly be an edited production even if it was "that" moment's recording. Then, by listening through a radio speaker static... our ears were adjacent to our eyes, as natural imaginations began to explore. _m

Above static; words penetrate a day's thought; eyedeas found.