From the outside, Melania Trump looks like a woman in over her tastefully balayaged head ... A new, scrupulously reported biography by Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan counters this perception, arguing that the first lady is not a pawn but a player, an accessory in the second as much as the first sense, and a woman able to get what she wants from one of the most powerful and transparently vain men in the world ... The result is a convincing case that those 'who dismiss her as nothing more than an accessory do not understand her or her influence' ... its major contribution is merely the insistence that Melania is a real person with complicated motivations. This point should be obvious: Isn't everybody, in and out of the White House, complex, striving, conflicted, out for something?
It could not have been easy to report and write this book, given the Trumps’ disdain for real journalism, their aversion to transparency and obsession with controlling their images. But Jordan, a political reporter at the Washington Post, has assembled a solid narrative, written without embellishment or much editorial comment, allowing the facts to speak for themselves ...The Melania she presents is sympathetic occasionally, but not always. She is enigmatic, glamorous, secretive, strategic, a quiet loner and master compartmentalizer who made her deal with the devil and made it work because in many ways, deep down, she and Trump are cut from the same shiny cloth ... It took more than 120 interviews in five countries for this portrait to emerge — and it still leaves much unsaid ... Plenty of celebrities exaggerate and even lie about their past; reinvention is an American trope, after all, and it’s often accompanied by a rewrite of personal history. But as described in this book, Melania repeatedly stretches and even abandons the truth if it’s inconvenient for her, and her alone.
...The Art of Her Deal, a well-reported book, can’t help but seem lopsided. Trump-world stalwarts such as Corey Lewandowski...Chris Christie...and Sean Spicer...are quoted fulsomely. The less obsequious comments mostly come from unnamed sources ... Jordan has drilled down, though, and brings new information about this unconventional first lady to the surface ... Jordan pays attention to the many interviews Melania gave as a model and afterward, and catches her in many exaggerations, including the fact that she speaks many languages. She appears to speak only two ... Jordan never quite finds a voice with which to tell this story. She doesn’t have a strong point of view, and shies away from acute analysis. The Art of Her Deal reads like a very long newspaper article rather than a tightly wound book. The author bends so far backward to be fair to her subject that, at times, you fear she may need chiropractic help ... Donald Trump appears to dwell in the White House, for the most part, like a sultan among his pillows. Melania is self-exiled with her parents and son. On many days, Jordan writes, her press office doesn’t answer questions about where she is ... Melania played a kind of satirical James Bond girl in a famous photo shoot for British GQ. I thought of her situation recently while watching the Bond film Live and Let Die. That’s the one in which Roger Moore, stranded in the middle of a pond filled with crocodiles, manages to get to the safety of shore by using their heads as steppingstones.