Summary and book reviews of The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart

The Night Stages

by Jane Urquhart

The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2015, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2016, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Book Summary

The Night Stages explores the meaning of separation, the sorrows of fractured families, and the profound effect of Ireland's wild and elemental landscape on lives shaped by its beauty.

Set mainly in a remote westerly tip of Ireland in the 1940s and '50s, this stunning new novel from one of Canada's bestselling authors is at once intimate and epic in scope.

Tam, an Englishwoman, has been living in this harshly beautiful region since shortly after World War II, in which she served as an auxiliary pilot. She is now leaving her lover, Niall, who, like his father before him, is a meteorologist. On her way to New York, the airliner she is traveling on becomes grounded by heavy fog at Gander Airport in Newfoundland. As she waits for the fog to clear, she notices an enigmatic mural that moves her to revisit not only the circumstances that brought her to Ireland but her intense relationship with Niall and his growing despondency over the disappearance of his younger brother, Kieran.

We learn of Kieran's troubled childhood and of the tragedy that caused him as a boy to be separated from his family and taken in by a widowed countrywoman who lives in the mountains. There he comes to know the local people, among them a tailor, a fisherman-teacher, and a sheep farmer who is an astonishing philosopher. There is also the jeweler's daughter, a young woman who will come to change the course of several lives.< br>
Running parallel is the story of the painter Kenneth Lochhead and his creation of the mural at Gander that is Tam's only companion through three long days and nights.

An elegiac novel of unusual emotional depth, The Night Stages explores the meaning of separation, the sorrows of fractured families, and the profound effect of Ireland's wild and elemental landscape on lives shaped by its beauty. It is Jane Urquhart's richest, most rewarding novel to date.

LEICA

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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In lesser hands, the three separate narrative strands that make up Urquhart's novel would have come off as three separate and disjointed novellas rather than a unified whole. But Urquhart, an accomplished and award-winning prose stylist, seems to handle this kind of narrative balancing act with ease, uniting the various stories, not only through character and circumstance, but also through theme.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Full Review (689 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

For readers willing to surrender to the mood, this stands as an exemplar of both Canadian and Irish literature.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Urquhart's poetic, almost ethereal writing invites readers to revisit certain passages and marvel. This book about unquenchable longing is a lovely addition to her distinguished, award-filled oeuvre.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Highly satisfying on many levels, this novel will have book clubs basking in its big symbols and abuzz over Tamara's final decision; for when the fog lifts, there are two planes outside: one to New York and one to Shannon.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Kenneth Lochhead's "Flight and Its Allegories" and the Gander International Airport

If you flew on a transatlantic flight at some point in the mid-twentieth century, odds are you found yourself at Gander International Airport in Gander, Newfoundland, on at least one leg of your journey. For years, before the advent of wide-body jets with higher fuel capacity, Gander was the main refueling stop for aircraft bound for the United States from Europe, and was consequently one of the most important airports in the world. Much later, Gander's airport obtained some small (and bittersweet) measure of fame in 2001 when nearly forty international flights and more than six thousand passengers were grounded at Gander after all North American flights were halted on 9/11.

Kenneth Lochhead's If you ever have found yourself at the Gander airport, you ...

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