Picks and Pans Review: Shady Lady

UPDATED 04/19/1982 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 04/19/1982 at 01:00 AM EST

by Ruth Gordon

The actress, 85 and still active in TV commercials, has written three autobiographical books full of sprightly candor. This first novel, set in the 1920s, has some of the same qualities. It is about a girl named Winona who has red hair and three freckles on her bottom. She uses men to make her way to the Ziegfeld Follies. First she marries an actor, then the richest man in California. When the market collapses and he kills himself, Winona has a few bad days before she lands on her feet again. Gordon spends page after page describing clothes and hairdos, food and decor. The sentences are crisp, and the reader can almost hear Gordon's tough old voice crackling with laughter as she tells what she thinks are bawdy stories. Curiously, though, we never learn how Winona feels about her wayward life—or how the author feels. There is a nice period flavor in this novel but little substance. (Arbor House, $12.95)

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