Picks and Pans Review: Mia & Woody

updated 06/27/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/27/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Kristi Groteke with Marjorie Rosen

In this tell-all account of Farrow and Allen's breakup as witnessed by their former nanny, Kristi Groteke, and written with PEOPLE senior writer Marjorie Rosen, Mia emerges as a sympathetic and generous woman whose only crime was that she—what else?—loved too much. Woody, on the other hand, comes across as deluded and deceitful—qualities that appear especially unsettling in a man who seems compelled to raise questions about morality in his work.

The book offers the gory details of the unfolding drama which, depending on your appetite for other people's travails, will either fascinate or repel. There are scenes of Woody berating Mia (once for mispronouncing the name of a pasta in a restaurant, another time for acting "cute"); of their now-8-year-old adopted daughter Dylan mysteriously locking herself in the bathroom for hours to escape Allen's smothering attentions ("It was Heathcliff and Cathy," Mia said of the intensity between dad and daughter); of Mia discovering the infamous nude Polaroids; and of Woody rolling around on the floor, whining and begging Mia not to tell her former husband, André Previn, who had just phoned, about his affair with Previn's adopted daughter Soon-Yi. (When Previn, furious, said, "Get him out of the apartment," Woody refused to leave. "He was saying, 'Let's use this as a springboard to a new relationship,' " Mia recounted.)

To her credit the author, who worked for Mia from 1991 to 1993, before leaving to write this book, asked her former employer some tough questions face-to-face: Why did she stay with Woody for so long, despite his cruelty to her and his virtual dismissal of all but three of her 11 children—that is, of course, until he began noticing Soon-Yi. Why, after observing his seductive behavior with Dylan, did Mia allow Woody, to adopt the child anyway? Though clearly one-sided, this intimate portrait of a latter-day Mother Courage and her children is convincing. (Carroll & Graf, $21)

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