An autobiography of the Louisiana-born congresswoman (written with freelance writer Hatch), whose purple veil unfortunately casts too rosy a glow over 50 years of US history. At 24, Lindy Boggs came to Washington, D.C., from Louisiana with her newly elected husband, Democratic congressman Hale Boggs, in 1941. FDR was starting his third term, Europe was at war, and Pearl Harbor was around the corner. She didn't leave Washington until 1992, as Clinton was preparing to take office. Hale, who became House majority leader, died in a plane crash in Alaska in 1972; Lindy Boggs was elected to his congressional seat and held it for 20 years. Boggs was at the political center through wars (WW II, Korea, Vietnam), domestic revolutions (the civil rights and women's movements), and international upheaval (the opening to China, the breakup of the Soviet Union). As a member of the House Banking and Currency Committee, she fought for and won important protection for women and minorities in the financial markets; she chaired the 1976 Democratic convention. Through it all, she raised three children (Cokie Roberts, congressional correspondent for ABC News and NPR, is the youngest). The purple veil in the title refers to an incident early in her Washington life, when a change of clothes -- from casual jacket and skirt to elegant black suit and hat with purple veil -- gained her entrance to an important hearing. From that, she says, she learned to play the Washington game ""with confidence and authority and graciousness."" Regrettably, we see far too much of the gracious lady who emphasizes how nice everyone in the Beltway is, and not enough of the authoritative one. Too discreet to gossip (and she must have been privy to plenty), she is also reticent about discussing people, events, and even her own accomplishments except on the most amiable terms. World leaders are ""dears"" and ""darlings""; a historic dinner with Chou En-lai yields only an anecdote about Peking duck. Clearly a charmer who probably can make the proverbial omelette without breaking eggs, Boggs has that other requisite of southern women, a spine of steel. Too bad the spine isn't more visible.