This book opens with Jackson Pollock, a poor artist living in Greenwich Village in a flat he shares with his brother and his brother's pregnant wife. He and his brother are in their mid-twenties and it is 1941, with America on the brink of involvment in World War II. Jackson and his brother have come to New York from the west coast, to pursue their art career. The two brothers have studied with a famous artist, Benton, of the time and are part of the modern expressionist abstract movement. Due to the impending birth of his child Jackson's brother is not pursuing art but Jackson is. He meets a woman who is to become his wife, Lee Krasner, who is also an artist, early in the book. It is apparent that he has a drinking problem.
At the early age of 26, Jackson has a nervous breakdown, due in part to the alcoholism and in part to the block he experiences in his artistic process. Lee Krasner, the love of his life, stands by him through his breaddown and recovery. She recognizes that he is a brilliant artist and she does all she can to help him overcome his habit. Her success is limited but he does have some years of sobriety, but seems to always return to drinking. He sometimes goes into fits of rage when he is drinking but apparently was not abusive of his wife.
Eventually his work draws the attention of Peggy Guggenheim a very wealthy art patron, who begins to sponsor his work.
He moves to Long Island, where he flourishes and creates some of his best work.
Without his wife's constant management of his alcoholism, though, it is doubtful that he would have achieved any success whatsoever.
This did not stop him from having an affair with a young fan, later in the course of his life.