One of the most gracefully written and deeply compassionate literary biographies to come along since Arnold Rampersad's Life of Langston Hughes (1986). Though Waldron's sympathy for Gordon--the wife of poet Allen Tate and a highly praised writer in her own right--is clear, she wisely refuses to allow her feelings to blind her to her subject's many shortcomings: Gordon's social and religious snobbery, emotional instability, alcoholism, racial prejudices. The result is a narrative that is not only a fully-rounded portrait of the prickly Gordon, but a piercing analysis of a troubled marriage and a troubled era in American letters as well. Though Waldron makes no specific mention of them, readers may be struck by the curious parallels that can be drawn between the Tate-Gordon marriage and that of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Both couples were manic in their pursuit of liquor-sodden diversions. And, just as Scott Fitzgerald was devastated by his wife's dalliance with French aviator Edouard Jozan, Caroline Gordon was never able to forgive Tate for his 1933 affair with Marion Henry. If Zelda was jealous of Fitzgerald's writing success, Allen Tate was at one time equally incensed by his wife's superior literary reputation. Even more striking is the fact that both Zelda and Caroline accused their husbands of homosexual affairs--Scott with Ernest Hemingway, Allen with Stephen Spender. Waldron, a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, writes with a novelistic flair that keeps the reader continually engaged, and with a slightly cynical point of view that is just fight for capturing the often slightly ridiculous self-absorption of the literary and academic worlds she describes. A splendidly resonant work.