VERY MUCH A LADY: The Untold Story of Jean Harris and Dr. Herman Tarnower by Shana Alexander

VERY MUCH A LADY: The Untold Story of Jean Harris and Dr. Herman Tarnower

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This long-expected account of the Jean Harris case, ""the fruit of interviews, observations, and researches engaged in continually over the past two and a half years,"" presents Alexander's ""independent view"" of the same familiar material. She fleshes out Harris' early years--childhood in Cleveland, joyous summers on Lake Erie, honors at Smith--and sketches daddy Albert Struven (""a champion tyrant, bigot, and snob"") as Jean's model of the man--like Dr. Tarnower--impossible to please. A quick review of marriage to nice nebbish Harris, Grosse Pointe dinner parties, children, divorce, and the beginnings of a career in private school administration, and we are off to the Pierre for the famous first date. ("" 'Oh, Hi, you're such a good dancer!' she exclaimed as they swirled on the polished parquet."") To the long downhill story of the affair, the shooting, and the trial, already detailed in newspapers, books, and a TV-movie, Alexander adds amazingly little, except to track the diet doe's greedy social climb and document for the first time the extent of Harris' Tarnower-induced drug dependency. In a long chapter of Monday quarterbacking, Alexander picks apart the defense team's ""fateful errors."" (""They fall into eight categories."") Finally, she briefly describes life behind bars at Bedford Hills for Harris (""certainly the best dressed woman here""). It adds up to the same old story, though Alexander insists against her own evidence that the brittle, self-deluded Harris is a ""passionate"" and ""too truthful"" woman. This is a workmanlike study, more informative than Diana Trilling's Mrs. Harris, and certainly the best introduction to the case; but at this point hardly (as the subtitle would have it) ""The Untold Story. . .""--and almost certain to disappoint admirers of Alexander's Patty Hearst book, Anyone's Daughter.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1983
Publisher: Little, Brown