The marriage of Richard and Pat Nixon undergoes sharp analysis by Swift, a formally trained psychologist and first-family historian (The Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm: A Thousand Days in London, 1938-1940, 2008, etc.).
The author had access to letters and other of the first lady’s materials unavailable to previous biographers and historians. He uses them wisely, smashing stereotypes of Richard Nixon as a cold personality who had no clue how to treat his wife and of Pat Nixon as a plastic female too old-fashioned in her idea of marriage to make an impact as a political wife. The book is certainly no valentine to the Pat and Dick of the title, however. It is a nuanced portrait of each as an individual and of them as a married couple, working through good and bad times while being scrutinized intensively by political foes, ideologues, academics and journalist gossipmongers. Perhaps the most surprising conclusion by Swift is that Pat demonstrated sympathy for women's rights not only in the United States, but around the globe. The author’s evidence is plentiful, and he writes with grace throughout the mostly chronological narrative. From the opening chapters, it is obvious that Swift understands the skillful use of details and anecdotes that have escaped a large number of Nixon biographers. Even his telling of the couple's lengthy courtship feels fresh, as the ambitious but socially awkward young Quaker lawyer trapped in the small California town of his upbringing pursues the self-possessed, physically gorgeous, much-sought-after young teacher who grew up with almost no advantages. Swift delves into their compatibility ups and downs, their parenting skills and other private matters, but he focuses mostly on the difficult decisions Pat and Dick had to make together before undertaking seemingly long-shot attempts to serve in the House of Representatives, Senate and the White House.
A model of well-documented revisionist history.