...[an] admiring and illuminating new biography of the most powerful woman in American politics ... There’s a pattern in Ball’s book. Again and again, Pelosi is dismissed, first as a dilettante housewife, then as a far-left San Francisco kook, finally as an establishment dinosaur — and throughout, as a woman. She perseveres, driven by a steely faith in her own abilities. And more often than not, she is vindicated ... Despite meticulous reporting and multiple interviews with the House speaker, Ball...doesn’t penetrate her steely exterior, as she herself acknowledges ... To understand her, we can only look to her record.
Ball’s appreciation of Pelosi’s ancient abilities makes this a smart, solid biography with a lesson: Despite our current fixation on political showmanship, politics works best in a complicated democracy like ours when its practitioners can navigate their way through the byzantine cloakrooms of power ... They are small-room, off-camera skills. Ball makes a convincing case that no woman could have made it to the top without them ... She was a brilliant rainmaker, eventually a legendary one; her ability to raise money for fellow House members was a crucial weapon in her rise to the top ... Ball doesn’t spend much time explaining just how she did it, which is a shame: Pelosi isn’t the most transparent of subjects for a biography, and a better sense of how she succeeded in this mysterious realm might have helped to reveal more of who she is ... Pelosi isn’t quite hagiography. Ball admits to admiring the speaker, but she is honest about her deficits [.]
... one of the most cloyingly adulatory paeans to a living politician I’ve ever read ... Pelosi—no subtitle—is one long catalog of the subject’s self-sacrifice, courage, success against the odds, intelligence, uprightness and sagacity. It is the story of Nancy Pelosi as Nancy Pelosi would have told it—and, with apparently only light mediation, did tell it ... I was...not prepared for this book’s sassy you-go-girl boosterism ... The prose is bad but the sentiment is worse. If I ever write anything so mindlessly celebratory about any elected official, living or dead, liberal or conservative, I hope the editor of these pages will have the decency to fire me and suggest a career in advertising or political consultancy ... this account is so gratuitously panegyrical as to turn Mrs. Pelosi into a plastic version of herself ... Nancy Pelosi turned 80 in March. She is likely to retire soon. When she does, and the time comes to write her memoirs, perhaps some faithful aide will say to her: Madam Speaker, the job is already done.