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Ex-Midtown Bookclub: Late Nights on Air

Late Nights On Air

-- Elizabeth Hay

From the Publisher:
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.

On the whole, our group did not love this book, though a couple of people did. They felt strongly that it was missing a plot, and that the canoe trip, in failing to involve the some of the main characters in the novel, was an inadequate climax to the book. They also felt many of the characters failed to exhibit any real emotional growth, and that far too many more interesting stories were left unresolved in favor of an big finish that didn't seem to tie into the remainder of the book at all.

There was also a great deal of discussion about how much the perspective offered in the book was limited to a white outsider's view of things, and whether it was a deliberate, self-aware choice, or merely a result of the author's limited vision.

There was also a lot of confusion on basic plot points like who was sleeping with who, that might have been a deliberate effort on the part of Hay, but in the reading, it was less a tantalizing mystery and more an inability to keep track of what we were supposed to being tantalized by in this chapter.

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