A LIFE IN TWO WORLDS: The Autobiography of Beatrice Bishop Berle by Beatrice Bishop Berle

A LIFE IN TWO WORLDS: The Autobiography of Beatrice Bishop Berle

KIRKUS REVIEW

Now 81, and recently remarried, the widow of FDR ""brain truster"" Adolf A. Berle recalls her long, fine life--as rebellious socialite, social worker, physician, active wife/colleague, and mother. All the drama here comes in the first half. Raised in the Berk-shires and Manhattan by old-monied, snobbish, Francophile parents, ""wallflower"" Beatrice went to Vassar, the Sorbonne, and Columbia over fierce maternal opposition; her friends were despised, banned from the house (""Who was that awful mick? I wouldn't have a chauffeur who looked like that""); she slowly became aware of her beloved father's infidelities. And then, while Beatrice began a social-work career (Yorkville, Newfoundland) and met brilliant young lawyer Adolf (who introduced her to Lillian Wald's Henry St. Settlement), her break with her upper-crust family became sharper, even violent: her mother, diagnosed as paranoid (by cousin Dr. Austen Riggs) and manipulated by an Irish housekeeper, turned on Beatrice. . . with the rest of the clan (including father) falling into line. (Impressively, Beatrice recognizes that her own over-intense relationship with her father fed her mother's jealous fantasies.) After this fascinating mix of high-society and psychopathology, however, Berle's memoir becomes a pleasant, un-compelling sketching-in of her varied life (eased by independent wealth) after marriage in 1928. ""Adolf came first. The children came next. The career was third, but a very important third, enriching and supplementing the other two."" She collaborated with Adolf on FDR speeches, managed to complete medical school, traveled to South America--when Adolf became assistant secretary of state (harsh words for Cordell Hull and Sumner Welles), then Ambassador to Brazil (where Beatrice was both medical advisor and diplomatic wife). After the war, she concentrated on doctoring--with research into psychosomatic illness, campaigns for the family/neighborhood-clinic movement, work in methadone maintenance programs. And later years brought further travels, illnesses, Adolf's death in 1975, and marriage to Nobel Laureate Andre Cournand (now 88). Only occasionally engrossing, then, but a stylish, no-nonsense record of an unusually full, balanced public/private life.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1983
Publisher: Walker