... intriguing ... Unlike social history, though, biography concerns itself with the individual and her idiosyncrasies: that is, how a single subject is unlike the crowd. As a result, an element of defensiveness occasionally creeps into Greenberg’s prose, particularly regarding her many speculations or frequent use of 'may have' ... Greenberg’s excellent chapters on Polk’s alliances during and after the Civil War reveal the fault lines in the first lady’s character without defensiveness or hyperbole: Sarah Polk, a lady first, unquestionably wielded her unequal status with a velvet vengeance.
Extensively documented ... More social history than biography, the text traces Polk’s steadily growing expertise in charming, manipulating, and exerting pressure to abet her husband’s political career, which made for lasting change in Democratic Party policies. This is an in-depth, telling account of a largely overlooked woman who was able to effect profound influence while working within the constraints of her time and place.
Ms. Greenberg does an admirable job of analyzing various letters to and from Sarah Polk ... While painting a captivating portrait of Sarah and making no apologies for her role in Western expansion, Ms. Greenberg is unforgiving toward James.