This latest Pelosi biography traces her trajectory from Baltimore to DC. Geographically circuitous, Pelosi’s ascent was neither plodding nor meteoric ... Madam Speaker makes clear that the speakership was not a job Pelosi spent a lifetime craving but it is definitely a role she wanted and, more importantly, mastered. She understood that no one relinquishes power for the asking. Rather, it must be taken. Pelosi took on the boys club and won ... Page’s book chronicles Pelosi’s capacity to judge talent.
... even longtime watchers of House Speaker Nancy Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) will learn something new about the most powerful woman in the country ... Some well-trod anecdotes make their way into the book, but Page’s unprecedented access to the two-time speaker — 10 conversations over two years and interviews with 150 of Pelosi’s family members, friends and confidants — opens windows into Pelosi’s working style and relationship with colleagues that few other profiles or biographies can match ... There are juicy tidbits of more topical interest ... [Page] dives deep into the transformative moments in Pelosi’s early political career that are so well known a biographer might be tempted to skim over them ... Pelosi is well known on Capitol Hill for her ability to determine what a lawmaker’s underlying need is behind a situation and for knowing them and their districts better than they do themselves, but the kinds of minutiae that prove it are usually too granular to make their way into news articles. Page has the room, and in many places in the book, it’s the smallest, best-chosen details that tell the biggest stories about Pelosi as a master legislator.
Instead of offering an intimate look at Pelosi’s true self or even her motivations, Page approaches the speaker as a study in power. The result is a biography that doesn’t plumb the depths of Pelosi’s soul but does fully reckon with her as a history-changing force — it’s a kind of Great Woman biography in the style usually reserved for great men ... Page delves into the issues of gender and sexism with depth and nuance, illustrating how social norms for women, and Pelosi’s alternate embrace and then defiance of them, shaped her rise ... The ins and outs of Pelosi’s early life and biggest professional victories are laid out in painstaking and at times superfluous and repetitive detail, although in the case of the Affordable Care Act, the play-by-play is a useful primer in how Pelosi wields her power and how little she crows about it ... Ultimately, Page doesn’t quite break into Pelosi’s inner world, and she doesn’t quite get into what, exactly, about Pelosi inspires such vitriol on the right and the far left alike. But in many ways, the focus on external professional displays makes for a more honest and interesting read than any attempt at biography-as-psychodrama ... A reader won’t walk away from this biography feeling intimately acquainted with Nancy Pelosi. But they will put it down with a much deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, the work it takes for a woman to harness, maintain and wield authority that was once reserved exclusively for men.