I am a huge fan of this lady and had opportunity to hear her speak to her writing at a Wordfest event. Jane Urquhart especially influenced me with The Stone Carvers, The Underpainter and Away. However, with this novel, The Night Stages, she just didn’t make the mark.
Strengths continue to be Urquhart’s writing of ‘place’ and her amazing capture of lyricism and poetic language. I continue to be in awe of her capacity to paint images with words and this simply won’t change.
The book is, in fact, elegant in its language, description and characters, but somehow all of those elements did not pull, together, a larger arc. I found that there were three separate stories being told and I read with anticipation that Urquhart, in her style, would pull these threads together in a surprising and satisfying way. She didn’t.
The three narratives all spoke to me about connection, relationship, struggle and did share common desperate heart ache, but that’s as far as the links went. Tam’s exploration of the mural, once grounded for three day’s in Gander, was intriguing to me because of my interest in painting walls and in my love of the visual arts, but Kenneth Lockhead’s partially fictionalized mural, Flight and its Allegories, does not ground the story…or meld successfully with Kieran’s story.
Kieren’s narrative, for me, was endearing. I would enjoy it if this section was pulled out from the context of The Night Stages, in order to stand on its own. The race, in particular, was powerfully written.
In reading The Night Stages, the reader is forced to jump around from one of these narratives to another…to be strung along, so to speak. Unfortunately, from my reading of this past year, this is happening more and more with contemporary literature and I’m starting to wonder if writing is becoming less linear and more fragmented, in general. Is this the ‘post-modern’ experience of literature? I HOPE NOT!