April 09, 1979 12:00 PM

by Pamela White Hadas

Not only has the author tried to interpret the voices of 24 of history’s “most passionate women,” but she chose to do it in poetry. It is an awesome task that overwhelms Hadas, 32, in her first book, but it is a noble struggle. Out of letters, myth and her own imagination, she concocted these monologues by legendary women, from the naughty (Lizzie Borden, Pandora, Jezebel) to the more or less noble (Mary Magdalene, Coco Chanel, Isadora Duncan) to the anonymous (“American Girl,” “Playmate”). Occasionally she succeeds (Mona Lisa ruminating while she sits for da Vinci) but more often she doesn’t (Marilyn Monroe “taking the veil of Hollywood”). The novelty of the idea and the enterprise of the execution are admirable, regardless. (Knopf, $8.95)

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