Deeply Moving and True to Life
Its 1975 Yellowknife where Harry arrives on the scene to temporarily manage the small town radio station, back where his radio career started. When he arrives, he is enchanted by an exotic and sensual female voice on the air, that of Dido. He falls instantly in love but finds out that Dido is more than what her voice portrays.
There is also Eleanor, the wise and supportive receptionist, Gwen the woman who drove cross-country hoping for a producer job behind the scenes, but instead is put on as an amateur announcer, and there is Ralph the book critic and photographer. Of course, Yellowknife is also a central character with its beauty and biting cold.
In the background, we learn about the real life controversy of the proposed Mackenzie River Valley natural gas line, which threatens to go into the Arctic and destroy native people’s land. We also learn the rich history of the extraordinary explorer John Hornby, which prompts Harry, Eleanor, Gwen, and Ralph into an ambitious and difficult 6-week journey through the harsh climate on foot and by canoe.
Throughout the entire book Elizabeth Hay allows us to get to know and love the richly-textured characters that come to life. I felt as if I was part of the book as I was reading it. Having to bundle up when reading about the harsh winters and in awe of the beauty both sounds and sights that Hay paints. The characters seem like people who are true to life, which makes the book very readable and believable.
Hay won the prestigious Giller Prize for this work and I couldn’t agree more. This book is a must read and will appeal to readers of literary fiction, fine character studies, and historical fiction alike. This was my first voyage through Elizabeth Hay and it has left me yearning for more by this outstanding author.
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