Americans have mixed attitudes towards first ladies.
They want presidential wives to be supportive helpmates to their husbands, but only to a point. They are all right with them helping on policy but not too much. They like first ladies who have style and panache, but not when they flaunt it.
Nancy Reagan was one of the most successful presidential wives, yet she was often an enigma. That is in part because, ironically, this one-time Hollywood actress was less adept at managing her own image.
Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty does a great service in her new book by taking us behind the public façade. The Triumph of Nancy Reagan is a detailed, insightful, and gossipy look at the wife of Ronald Reagan, one of our most consequential, yet controversial presidents. It is a bit long and sometimes gets bogged down in minutia, but ultimately succeeds in bringing the subject to life.