June 16, 1997 12:00 PM

by Patricia Bosworth

In Anything Your Little Heart Desires, Patricia Bosworth explores the chasm between public success and private failure, between political achievement and domestic disaster. The center of this deeply felt memoir is Bosworth’s father, Bartley Crum, a lawyer who defended blacklisted screenwriters and directors against the anticommunist hysteria that swept Hollywood in the 1950s and who—as a member of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry into Palestine—helped establish Israel as a homeland for Jews displaced by World War II.

Growing up in San Francisco, Manhattan and on the family ranch in Aptos, Calif., Patricia and her brother Bart Jr. soon realized that the veneer of glamor gilding their parents’ lives (Crum represented Rita Hayworth in her divorce from Aly Khan) barely concealed a leaden core of misery and rage. Bosworth’s mother was an embittered, failed writer, given to passionate affairs with inappropriate men. Alcoholic and addicted to Seconal and Nembutal, Crum repeatedly attempted suicide until finally he succeeded, and Bosworth’s brother also killed himself while he was away at college.

Absorbing as this is, it is not until the end, when the writer learns a startling fact about her father, that the litany of tragic events comes into some kind of perspective. At this point, one wishes that Bosworth had more closely examined her father’s life through the lens of this new information. Still, this is an admirable book, a bittersweet tribute to a man of great conviction who worked for justice and world peace but failed to settle the dangerous strife within himself and at home. (Simon & Schuster, $27.50)

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