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Download Very Much a Lady: The Untold Story of Jean Harris and Dr. Herman Tarnower epub

by Shana Alexander

Based on the author's exclusive interviews with Jean Harris, as well as with Harris's and Tarnower's friends and families, this account examines the multifarious emotional entanglements that exploded the night Herman Tarnower was shot
Download Very Much a Lady: The Untold Story of Jean Harris and Dr. Herman Tarnower epub
ISBN: 0316031259
ISBN13: 978-0316031257
Category: Biographies
Subcategory: Regional U.S.
Author: Shana Alexander
Language: English
Publisher: Little Brown & Co; 1st edition (February 1, 1983)
Pages: 316 pages
ePUB size: 1974 kb
FB2 size: 1638 kb
Rating: 4.8
Votes: 806
Other Formats: lrf txt mbr rtf

"Very Much a Lady" became a book for two reasons: 1.) the victim was a wealthy, socialite doctor and 2.) the perpetrator was a socialite woman. That's not to say that the entire affair is without intrigue, that's just to say that had the two main parties been less wealthy then the drama of it all would have been proportionally less cared about.

Both individuals in this tragic true crime were unlikable to some degree. Dr. Herman Tarnower, the "victim", because of his arrogant and dismissive air, especially towards the women in his life. Jean Harris, the convicted, because of her very masochistic and high school-like love affair with Dr. Tarnower. This lethal combination of personalities made their rocky relationship conclude in the manner it concluded. Jean was the love struck mistress that could not pry herself away from a humiliating relationship and Dr. Tarnower was the philandering doctor that saw love as a very weak and unnecessary emotion. The two of them could not have been more repulsive as a couple, yet they carried on. The tragic and unfortunate end for the both of them seems as though it could have all been avoided if either one of them was more of an adult. That seems like a strange statement when the two of them started their affair at ages 57 and 46!

The book flowed well but like many books it hit a bit of a snag in the middle. There seemed to be a repeat theme with Jean Harris of victimization at the hands of her beloved. The author, Shana Alexander, began to list even the smallest of slights from Dr. Tarnower towards Jean that were trivial in my estimation and only dragged the book on longer than necessary. I understand that she was trying to draw a complete picture to illustrate Jean Harris' mental state and what contributed to it but it became a bit redundant and mundane.

But still, the only reason this book is good is because of Shana Alexander. She latched herself onto this saga--and by extension of that to Jean Harris--and attacked the story with veracity. She uncovered every detail possible to give the readers something Jean Harris' jury didn't have: Jean's life story. The documenting of Jean's life story is a double-edged sword, we get the good and the bad, the scintillating and the boring. Shana gives it all to us and lets the reader decide what's important and what's not. Did Shana give us too much? Maybe, but I appreciate all of what she did to make it a complete story.
This is an engrossing book, especially for those who were around in the 1980's when the sensational murder occurred or who have seen the movie Mrs. Harris. I was impressed with the intelligence of Shana Alexander's writing. The book was a bit voyeuristic and a little gossipy where I wanted it to be, but never crossed the line of decency. The author also broadened the story, placing the lovers' relationship into the context of social-climbing snobbery and anti-Semitism among the upper classes of post-war America. Shana Alexander believed strongly in Jean Harris' innocence and she goes into detail about the trial during the last section of the book, which will be of interest to those who enjoy such things. She goes on to describe the early years of Harris' imprisonment and there the book terminates. The remaining details of Jean Harris' life can be found online.
I think this book is considered to be the definitive story of Jean Harris and Herman Tarnower. It certainly captures and holds your attention and is as generous and sympathetic an account of Jean Harris' crime as you are likely to find. Shana Alexander has a way of making you feel the pain, confusion, anger and hurt her subjects often feel before they commit their crimes. I have read Nutcracker, also by Shana Alexander and this same feeling for the criminal came through. Mind you, you are not left with a feeling of approval for or agreement with the crime, but you do have a better understanding of how it could have happened.
I didn't come to this book "cold." I have seen interviews with and documentary TV programs about Mrs. Harris, read another book about her, and viewed both HBO's "Mrs. Harris" and an earlier, excellent TV movie about her trial which utilized trial transcripts for the dialogue. Shana Alexander's detailed, nuanced book about the life of the woman whom she quickly came to admire and sympathize with gets my vote, however, for how Mrs. Harris should be remembered. Being mesmerized by need and wonderful memories into continuing in an increasingly unrewarding, even degrading, relationship is a phenomenon which both men and women, uneducated or as impressively literate as Jean Harris, can understand. Things can go terribly wrong, particularly when one partner in the relationship seemingly is incapable of true commitment or even of empathy (Dr. T), and the other is under the spell of not only of lost love remembered but of sudden forced withdrawal from mood-altering, inappropriately prescribed medication. Ms. Alexander's book gives a fascinating, multi-faceted look at an uber-capable, extremely responsible adult female who goes through the windshield one appropriately dark and stormy night after long-term endurance of disrespect, flagrant cheating, and neglect and short-term drug-induced crashing depression and panic. Before being released from prison, Jean Harris spent years helping her fellow inmates and their children and writing lucid, compassionate books about this experience; much to her credit, her excellent biographer includes this information in this book. I hope Mrs. Harris, whenever she passes away, lives through the admiration and love of her own children, whom she cared for more than herself, as well as that of a wider audience introduced to her in this work. As for Dr. Tarnower, I hope he is remembered as what Mrs. Harris feared he would be: a "diet Doc."
Shana Alexander is a knowledgable journalist, she personally knew Jean Harris and communicated with her through out her trial and incarceration. Jean Harris, unfortunately, was given a long sentence, the sentence required by law of the charge that she was convicted of. Jean Harris should have been advised differently by her attorneys. This story is formative and very interesting to read. I recommend this to anyone.