Louise Bernikow's pen moves effortlessly ""among women"" in a series of extended essays on female relationships: mothers and daughters, sisters, friends, lovers, enemies, strangers. She draws heavily upon literature, history, and myth and tellingly probes her own experience to trace the intricate patterns of female alliances, conflicts, and estrangements. The cast is large and varied, a pantheon of female notables: the sisters Bronte, Grimke, and Stephen (Woolf/ Bell); Sappho, of course, and Katherine Mansfield; Elizabeth Tudor vs. Mary Stuart; Cinderella, Medea, Scarlett O'Hara, Little Eva, and Mary Lamb (with a knife raised against her mother). Bernikow is particularly incisive--in a section on Paris in the Twenties--on the flowering of female culture in this century (""Modernism was not a male enterprise"") and its demise during a fascist period when, as Stein wrote, ""fathers were looming and filling up everything."" Here are Woolf, Stein, Colette, H.D., Bryher, Djuna Barnes, Natalie Barney. This will be of special interest to Woolf readers, since much is said of her; but it can be read as much for its own good writing as for what it says, thoughtfully, of the writing of others.