Late Nights on Air

Late Nights on Air

Book - 2007
Average Rating:
Rate this:
The eagerly anticipated novel from the bestselling author of A Student of Weather and Garbo Laughs .

Harry Boyd, a hard-bitten refugee from failure in Toronto television, has returned to a small radio station in the Canadian North. There, in Yellowknife, in the summer of 1975, he falls in love with a voice on air, though the real woman, Dido Paris, is both a surprise and even more than he imagined.

Dido and Harry are part of the cast of eccentric, utterly loveable characters, all transplants from elsewhere, who form an unlikely group at the station. Their loves and longings, their rivalries and entanglements, the stories of their pasts and what brought each of them to the North, form the centre. One summer, on a canoe trip four of them make into the Arctic wilderness (following in the steps of the legendary Englishman John Hornby, who, along with his small party, starved to death in the barrens in 1927), they find the balance of love shifting, much as the balance of power in the North is being changed by the proposed Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline, which threatens to displace Native people from their land.

Elizabeth Hay has been compared to Annie Proulx, Alice Hoffman, and Isabel Allende, yet she is uniquely herself. With unforgettable characters, vividly evoked settings, in this new novel, Hay brings to bear her skewering intelligence into the frailties of the human heart and her ability to tell a spellbinding story. Written in gorgeous prose, laced with dark humour, Late Nights on Air is Hay's most seductive and accomplished novel yet.

On the shortest night of the year, a golden evening without end, Dido climbed the wooden steps to Pilot's Monument on top of the great Rock that formed the heart of old Yellowknife. In the Netherlands the light was long and gradual too, but more meadowy, more watery, or else hazier, depending on where you were. . . . Here, it was subarctic desert, virtually unpopulated, and the light was uniformly clear.

On the road below, a small man in a black beret was bending over his tripod just as her father used to bend over his tape recorder. Her father's voice had become the wallpaper inside her skull, he'd made a home for himself there as improvised and unexpected as these little houses on the side of the Rock -- houses with histories of instability, of changing from gambling den to barber shop to sheet metal shop to private home, and of being moved from one part of town to another since they had no foundations.
-- From Late Nights On Air
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c2007
ISBN: 9780771038112
Branch Call Number: HAY
Characteristics: 363 p. ;,22 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jan 28, 2019

My favourite book so far by Hay. Loved the descriptions of the landscape and the people. Highly recommended.

Jan 19, 2018

Absolutely loved reading this story of life centering around a radio station in Yellowknife in the 1970s. Especially interesting because we had just happened to watch the movie CBQM about the radio station in Fort McPherson, NWT!

Jul 14, 2017

Elizabeth brings Canada's north to life with real people and descriptions of the climate and terrain. I could almost relive my years in Northern Manitoba with her story.

Jul 20, 2016

Beautiful vivid landscape description. A rolling story interspersed with some historical discoveries of the North.

Oct 21, 2015

I read this in Aug 2015 for the Chinook Library System Summer Reading Challenge. I used it for the 'book that won the Giller Prize' category. I enjoyed it, even though I was speed reading at the time! (I didn't win the prize (a kobo) though. Oh well, I like real books better anyway!)

May 13, 2014

An alright book which brings back memories of Yellowknife. However, did not find it a compelling read

mytwin Dec 02, 2013

Elizabeth Hay has a way of drawing you into Canadian experiences in very interesting ways.The details are intriguing.I actually read this recently for the second time after reading her "Alone in the Classroom".
Canadian authors and Canadian settings are my favorites.

WVMLBookClubTitles Jun 17, 2013

Hay explores the relationships, psychologies, and motivations of a group of lost souls working at a small CBC radio station in 1975 Yellowknife.The North, itself, rises to character-status as rich imagery immerses the reader in an isolated setting that reflects the yearnings of its inhabitants. While the novel is replete with bright and witty dialogue, the reader is ever-conscious of Hay’s omniscient point of view and frequent foreshadowing, which communicate a tone of resignation, melancholy, and foreboding; the threat of a proposed gas pipeline through Native land also contributes to a sense of tension. Hungering for life-altering experiences, the friends embark on a canoe trip that takes them into the Arctic wilderness, where they learn that fate may be as unforgiving as the land. This 2007 Giller Prize winner is an artfully crafted, insightful, and quotable work about love and self-discovery.

mytwin Feb 14, 2013

I read Canadian authors and really like her detailed and unusual characters in Canadian settings; also read " Alone in the Classroom".

Jan 14, 2013

Been up North? If not, this is a good book telling how it was with the original explorers(insights from their diaries), as well as, the cast of Harry, Gwen, and Dido - love triangle in the 70s but not what you think. All are outsiders that have come to get away from something, though searching for themselves in the harsh climate, but beautiful landscape can be deceiving. The major political/social problem is the building of a new pipeline in the North and the problems it will bring to the different communities that surround the area and lack of regard of the local people and their heritage. Certain parts are written beautifully, while other parts seems truncated. Interesting read.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability
Mar 11, 2011

kirab thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


Add a Summary
Mar 13, 2012

Against the backdrop of a judicial inquiry into a proposed construction of a gas pipeline across the Arctic that would threaten the northern environment and the native way of life, this novel follows an engaging assortment of characters working in the Yellowknife CBC radio station in the mid-1970s Canadian North. Inspired by a radio drama about adventurer John Hornby, who traveled extensively through the Northwest Territory before starving, Gwen Symon arrives as a dewy-eyed newcomer with dreams of working behind the scenes in radio. Mentored by the talented but hard-drinking station manager, Gwen ends up working the late shift on air. She gradually comes into her own, just as radio makes way for television and the station crew begins to disband. Before they do, Gwen and friends set out on a journey to retrace Hornby's route. Equal parts Northern Exposure and Lost in the Barrens, this novel, already the winner of Canada's prestigious Giller Prize, compellingly captures one of the many small moments in which the Canadian North began to lose its essence. A strong choice for all libraries.--Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, Ont. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at PMPL

To Top