Full of record accomplishments--youngest Ph.D. in Germany, first American correspondent to travel to the Soviet Arctic--this memoir of her 1920's and 30's by veteran journalist Gruber (Rescue, 1987, etc.) is high on action but low on analysis. The daughter of Jewish immigrants, Gruber was born and raised in Brooklyn, where her precocious academic abilities were soon recognized. Encouraged by mentors, she excelled, first in high school, then in college, majoring in English and German. Awarded scholarships, she went on to graduate school in Wisconsin and at the Univ. of Cologne. There, in 1932, where she became at 20 the youngest Ph.D. in Germany, she also witnessed the growing power of Hitler and the spread of anti-Semitism. Intent on being a writer, Gruber returned to New York, but because of the Depression, jobs were scarce, and she began writing free-lance pieces for the New York Herald Tribune. A travel fellowship enabled her to return to Europe in 1935 as a correspondent for the Tribune to study women under democracy, Fascism, and Communism, which she did by traveling in Germany, where old friends had either fled or joined the Nazis; in England, where she had a disappointing interview with Virginia Woolf; and in the Soviet Union, where she traveled in what we now know as the Gulag, first by train, then by plane, and finally by ship across the Arctic Ocean. A woman to admire, with a remarkable story that's undercut by lackluster prose and a tendency to deal superficially with the darker side of times past.