A POPULATION OF ONE by Constance Beresford-Howe
Kirkus Star


Email this review


This is the second panel in Beresford-Howe's tart triptych of self-sufficient Canadian women--and narrator Wilhemina (Willy) Doyle proves a worthy successor to the appealing 65-year-old heroine of The Book of Eve (1974). A 30-year-old, reasonably attractive virgin with a Ph.D., Willy has spent her twenties sitting on her credentials, catering to her whining mother and her bossy sister's family in Toronto. But now mother is dead, and Willy heads for Montreal to lecture on the 19th-century novel at Cartier College and begin work on ""The Project"": finding a husband or at least a lover as soon as possible. Her leering French building super would be 'appy to oblige, but Willy's much more interested in pleasant prof Bill Trueblood--who squires her splendidly to the theater but proves irrevocably impotent on an intended joy-ride down the US east coast (""It's all right, Mother,"" thinks Willy. ""We didn't even bruise the gin""). Far friskier is cranky, gnarled department head Archie, who ""radiates such warm and masterful exuberance you could make toast on it,"" gives Willy cooking lessons, bestows ""vehement and powerful kisses on her,"" but dies before they can marry. So Willy ends up still alone, still ""a population of one""; luckily, Beresford-Howe writes about loneliness with the specific, sharp-edged tenderness of someone who has known it but gone beyond it: not even the Christmas Eve (battling couple next door, Bing Crosby on television) goes soggy. The academia is a bit less convincing--student demonstrations, faculty feuds--but Willy Doyle, whether bungling an attempt to buy contraceptives or feeling drawn to a stranger ""in spite of his personal prose style,"" is decent and smart and human enough to be followed anywhere the shrewd Miss Beresford-Howe wants to send her.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1978
Publisher: St. Martin's