Excerpt from The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Night Stages

by Jane Urquhart

The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart X
The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2015, 416 pages
    Dec 2016, 416 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


There is a black-and-white photograph of Kenneth standing in sunlight beside a prairie railway station. He is loose-limbed and smiling, happy maybe, or at least unconcerned about the journey he seems poised to take. Slim, fresh-faced, all dressed up, he appears to be just a kid really, possibly leaving home for the first time. But nothing about his posture, or the atmosphere around him, suggests anxiety. He wants to get going, this young man, but he is not at all unhappy with, or uncurious about, the place where he stands. His shadow falls behind him, but the gesture painted by it is one of eagerness. He will never lose this alertness, this aura of keenness.

The station's platform is dry and clean: there have not been any recent bouts of snow. But Kenneth's overcoat, and his gloves and scarf, suggest that it is cold. There is also a winter clarity of sunlight and crispness of shadow on the cement under his feet, a full sun in a clear sky above him. And then there is this anticipation – that eagerness.

A cable telegraph sign is just behind his left shoulder: it could be he has sent or has received some sort of message, a declaration or a summons. Perhaps he will be gone from the place where he stands, and quite soon. Everything around him in this picture – shadows, the raised arms of the railway signal, the sky and the station – speaks of a departure to places larger and more complicated, a drift toward relationships more sophisticated than those unfolding in the town or village beyond the edges of the picture. An entrance into commerce, perhaps, or maybe sudden fame. It is not at all hard to imagine Kenneth gone, the quay empty, and the photographer, whoever he or she may be, turning away, walking back into a town that has already begun to fade.

*   *   *

But Kenneth is older than he looks in this image: he has already taken and abandoned several points of view. He has been to Paris, Milan, Madrid. He has been educated by museums and instructed by teachers. He has met – briefly – certain celebrated artists. He has visited important monuments and gazed at significant landmarks. He has gathered all of this together and has brought it with him to this stark place, along with a wife and two children. Yes, he is married and has children.

There is a grain elevator in the distance on the other side of the tracks. Some sort of field, far away, is almost hidden by Kenneth's left elbow. He is not a prairie boy, but he has chosen this sky, this platform, and everything beyond it as a background to his daily life, and he has become familiar with returning to such a landscape after completing projects in the outer world. In spite of how things may look, this is a photo of arrival, one taken just after disembarkation, when the airport mural was still bright and alive in his mind, the paint on it hardly dry.

If he were to close his eyes now, the figures he has created would stare back at him – a questioning congregation – wondering where he has gone. His back is turned to the distances suggested by the converging lines of the railway tracks. The sky is utterly empty. Kenneth's shadow is a thin ghost on the quay. But there are thousands and thousands of miles inside him.

  • 1

Excerpted from The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart. Copyright © 2015 by Jane Urquhart. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
    by Dawnie Walton
    Within the general arc of many well-established and chronicled historical events is oral history's ...
  • Book Jacket: Monkey Boy
    Monkey Boy
    by Francisco Goldman
    Francisco Goldman's Monkey Boy exists in the liminal space between memoir and fiction. Like Goldman ...
  • Book Jacket: The Girl in His Shadow
    The Girl in His Shadow
    by Audrey Blake
    The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake is a fast-paced historical novel set in Victorian-era England...
  • Book Jacket: Whereabouts
    by Jhumpa Lahiri
    Jhumpa Lahiri's Whereabouts has seen numerous comparisons to Second Place by Rachel Cusk. These two ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Book of Lost Names
by Kristin Harmel
A heartrending novel of survival, inspired by an astonishing true story from World War II.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Morningside Heights
    by Joshua Henkin

    A tender and big-hearted novel about love in the face of loss, from the award-winning author of The World Without You.

Who Said...

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading, you wish the author that wrote it was a ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!


Solve this clue:

H I T Best P

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.