Written by: Marissa Kanaris
With the recent celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, I picked up one of my favourite Canadian books and I urge you to do the same! “Late Nights on Air” by Elizabeth Hay is the winner of the 2007 Scotiabank Giller Prize and other notable literary recognitions. It is well-deserving of these awards. Hay gives life through word to the Barrens landscape and brings this same vivid vocabulary to her characters: Harry, Gwen, and Dido. Harry Boyd with the cauliflower ear has faced a life of disappointment in his career and in love, yet even surrounded by his air of defeat, he continues to move forward. Gwen arrives in the North crackling with shyness and inexperience yet a firm ambition to immerse herself in stories and sound. Dido is Gwen’s counterpart with her beauty, confidence and natural radio voice, and brings disruption of the calm with her. The real grip this novel has on the reader is in its driving character: the Canadian North. The North serves as more than just a backdrop for the characters that Hay expertly brings to life in the reader’s mind. Each season shapes personalities; the landscape fosters dreams; and the Northern extremes redirects life’s courses. The landscape’s power becomes most evident in a memorable trip that Harry, Gwen, Eleanor and Ralph take to explore the Barrens and the legendary journey of John Hornby. Their venture into the wild changes their lives. “Late Nights on Air” is vivid, immersive and thoughtful; and a must-read for every Canadian.