Wednesday 20 May 2015

The Night Stages

Finished May 17
The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart

Tamara is a woman at a point of crisis in her life. It is the early sixties and she has been in a relationship with a man who can't commit to her in the way she wants. She runs from the situation, driving across Ireland to the Dublin airport and taking a flight to New York. When the plane lands for refueling at Gander, Newfoundland, the airport there fogs in, and she is grounded for hours. She notices a large mural in the airport, and moves back and forth between reflecting on her life and studying the mural.
Tamara is from a well-off family, Her father is involved in construction, providing concrete and other resources for building projects. Tamara has rebelled against her family, first as a tomboy running a bit wild, then becoming a pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary during World War II, then leaving her husband for a man from a lower class and running off to Ireland with him. Her most recent relationship is with another Irishman, Niall, a meteorologist who has his own issues. Niall is haunted by guilt over his actions that contributed to his younger brother Kieran leaving. Kieran hasn't been heard from in years, and Niall has taken every opportunity he could to search for his brother. We hear Niall's story as he tells it to Tamara.
A second narrator in the novel is Kieran himself, telling the story of his own childhood, his breakdown after his mother's death, his subsequent life living in a small village, gaining a basic education, working as a labourer and getting involved in bicycling. Kieran lived with the family housekeeper Gerry-Annie beginning shortly after his mother's death, and became enamored of a bike left behind by someone leaving the area. The bike, christened the Purple Hornet by Kieran, leads to his future in ways he never envisioned.
The third narrator is Kenneth Lochhead, the painter of the mural at Gander. Lochhead is a real historical figure and Urquhart acknowledges this while creating his story. The story of the mural is an interesting one. Done in egg tempura, it took something like 5000 eggs to create and incorporated figures from Lochhead's past.
The Irish portions of the story are from County Kerry, and bring the country to life vividly.
This story makes beautiful use of language and reveals the unpredictable nature of love.

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