Picks and Pans Review: Laura Z.: a Life

updated 10/03/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/03/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Laura Z. Hobson

The author of this autobiography, who has published nine novels, was the daughter of socialist parents, and her story of growing up Jewish and radical in New York City is fairly familiar. What is surprising is what came after. Hobson, now 83, put herself through Cornell and became a successful promotion writer, at Time Inc., among other places. She married and divorced book publisher F. Thayer Hobson. She counted such people as Henry and Clare Boothe Luce among her friends. Her life on the surface—the theater, dressing for dinner almost every night, dancing—reads like the short stories she wrote for the women's magazines. But there were two abortions, a miscarriage, depressions, psychoanalysis and a longing to have a child that was so strong she finally, as a single parent in 1937, adopted a little boy. Four years later, when she found herself pregnant after a casual affair, she went into hiding, gave birth to a baby under another name, and then adopted that child too. She also helped bring World War II refugees from Europe, went to Hollywood to write movies—mainly unsuccessful adaptations that bored her—and then, encouraged by Dick Simon (father of Carly) of Simon & Schuster, wrote her first novel. It was her second, 1947's Gentleman's Agreement, that made her financially independent, and she breaks off her life story at that moment of triumph (she promises to come up with a sequel, however). Her writing is slick, so polished, in fact, that it sometimes seems at odds with her gritty determination to be truthful. But this is a highly entertaining book, showing the first half of this century through the eyes of an exceptionally strong-minded woman. (Arbor House, $17.95)

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