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Beresford-Howe, Constance.

Toronto. Macmillan, c1985. 230pp, cloth, $19.95. ISBN 0-7715-9681-2. CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Barbara Egerer Walker

Volume 14 Number 1
1986 January

Night Studies is Constance Beresford-Howe's fourth novel. The story centres on Simcoe College in downtown Toronto: the staff, students, and faculty of the night-school program. Beresford-Howe is obviously writing from first hand experience, as she is a teacher at Toronto's Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.The central characters are both teachers dealing with their own personal problems. Glaylord Tyler is a tired, withdrawn man, who longs to escape from the reality that his wife is mentally ill, Imogene Hughes, whose husband has left her for another man, deals with her loneliness and vulnerability with crude language, wisecracks, and coldness towards colleagues and students. Along with the faculty, the staff and students of Simcoe College come to life in the story. Joe, a wino, keeps himself warm by spending his time in the school library, keeping his eyes open for unguarded purses. Genevieve Wu, an Oriental student who has difficulty mastering English verb agreements, finds that she is an illegal immigrant. Mrs, Pentecost, the singing cleaning woman, encounters many strange people on her nightly rounds of the washrooms. Reg, the security guard, a simple man, who is happy with the simple things in life, and the former director's strange daughter, Geraldine, complete the characters in Night Studies.

The classes continue night after night, until one evening a power failure in the college plunges everyone into darkness, and traps some in the elevator for several hours. During this period, the Night Studies people are forced to spend time either alone, or with an unlikely companion. Gaylord Tyler and Imogene Hughes find that they have much in common, and will continue to share their personal difficulties in order to acquire some happiness in their lives. Mrs. Pentecost discovers a tiny newborn child in the washroom and fantasizes about taking the child home and raising it.

The story line in the novel is very light and it is easy to read. However, the evening studies seem monotonous to everyone concerned, including the reader, at times. Although the characters are diverse, there is no particular one that stands out as unique, or at least, memorable. Night Studies is not the best of the novels Beresford-Howe has written, but it will probably find a place for itself because of her past successful works.

Barbara Egerer Walker, Etobicoke P.L., Etobicoke, Ont.
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