From Lazarre (The Mother Knot, Some Kind of Innocence), an intriguing but uneven tale of a moody woman artist's development. Charlotte Cohen, the orphaned child of a doctor and a writer who left her to fight in the Spanish Civil War, is raised by her aunt and uncle, both avid Communists; but Charlotte herself is more concerned with her budding sexuality, dead parents, and precocious artistic talent than with Party dictums. Later, married to WASP psychoanalyst Alex, and mother of baby Ivan, Charlotte is still entirely self-absorbed; Cousin Andre's suicide, an affair with a critic, a teaching job, and various bouts of depression and family crises do little to alter Charlotte's focus on herself--though she is always eager to come to the aid of various members of her extended family, like Vivian, her childhood friend trapped in an unhappy marriage. Against the background of the uptight 50's, hip 60's, and liberated 70's, Lazarre weaves her drama of family relations, with a focus on art and sexuality, and all the messy ambiguities that characterize ""real"" life. However, while Charlotte is unflaggingly earnest, Lazarre herself is often didactic; in the last third of the book the plot limps along until the grand crescendo--Ã¡ la Virginia Woolf--when Charlotte leaps into the ocean waves one dark night and is then artistically reborn. Often heavy-handed in showing how ""the personal is political,"" but still this has some fine moments before it bogs down.