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Constance Beresford-Howe

Toronto, Macmillan, 1991. 283pp, cloth, $24.95
ISBN 0-7715-9147-0. CIP

Grades 12 and up/ Ages 17 and up
Reviewed by Pat Bolger

Volume 20 Number 1
1992 January

Thirty years as a repressed wife did not prepare Rowena to manage on her own after Edwin's sudden death — especially when another wife claims all his assets. Various people attempt to organize her life for her: Cuthbert, the mousy lawyer; "dear old Canon Tom" (whose pastoral visits astonishingly develop into unrestrained sexual encounters); and Rowena's bossy daughter, Marion. More comforting to her are her imaginary conversations with Prince Charles and Ethel Wilson, her favourite author. Although she envisions herself with "all her worldly goods in a paper bag, drinking vanilla in doorways," she succeeds at last in her search for independence.

Young women will sympathize with Rowena's situation and find her efforts to cope with it both suspenseful and funny. The humour in the novel is often rather acid, especially in the portrayals of the late Edwin and in Cuthbert and Tom's attempts to look after "Edwin's wife."

Students doing extra reading assign­ments in Canadian literature will be delighted with a novel that is short and easily read. A Serious Widow is also a very good one.

Pat Bolger, Renfrew, Ont.
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