Set mainly in a remote area of County Kerry in the ’40s and ’50s, Jane Urquhart’s stunning new novel is at once intimate and epic in scope.
Tam, an English woman in her thirties, has been living in this harshly beautiful region since shortly after the war, in which she served as an auxiliary pilot. She is now leaving her lover, Niall, who, like his father before him, is a meteorologist.
The airliner she is travelling on becomes grounded by fog at Gander Airport, Newfoundland. As she waits, she regards an enigmatic mural, and revisits not only the circumstances that brought her to Ireland but her intense relationship with Niall and his growing despondency over his younger brother Kieran’s disappearance years before.
We learn of Kieran’s troubled childhood and the tragedy that caused him as a boy to be separated from home and taken in by a widowed countrywoman who lives in the mountains behind the town. He comes to know the local people, among them a tailor, a fisherman-teacher, and a sheep farmer who is a great philosopher. There is also the jeweller’s daughter, a young woman who will come to change the course of several lives.
Running parallel is the story of Canadian artist Kenneth Lochhead and how he created the mural that is Tam’s only companion through three long days and nights.
An elegiac novel of emotional depth that vividly evokes a time and a place, The Night Stages explores the meaning of separation, the sorrows of fractured families, and the profound effect of home in a world where a way of life is changing. It is Jane Urquhart’s richest, most rewarding novel to date.