Heather's Reviews > Sarah Childress Polk: A Biography of the Remarkable First Lady

Sarah Childress Polk by John R. Bumgarner
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Nov 05, 2011

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bookshelves: 19th-c, first-lady, non-fiction, united-states
Read from November 05 to 25, 2011 — I own a copy

I read this book with a dual purpose – one: I was researching for my Master’s research project on First Ladies and politics and two: I’m trying to read a non-fiction on each President and First Lady. This book only somewhat met my expectations.

It should be noted that the author of the book is a M.D. – not a PhD. His previous books were related to the health of the Presidents and he originally intended this book to be about the health of President James K. Polk, however he states he found Sarah Polk more interesting. I have no problems with him being a doctor – however a lot of time was spent on medical conditions on the Polks as well as the general populace – to the point that it became distracting. Nowhere in the above description is the medical focus alluded to.

While there was great information provided about Sarah Polk – who is little written about – I felt like less time was spent on her than on her husband, or various friends and cohorts, and the above mentioned medical diagnoses. For someone who really was a remarkable First Lady you don’t come away from the book feeling that.

Also, this book could have certainly benefited from better editing – and I’m not talking about spelling and grammar. The information really needed some fleshing out – it felt barebones in many places and could certainly have benefited from transitions between paragraphs and thoughts. There is one section that comes to mind where within three paragraphs we jumped from James Polk becoming Speaker of the House, to the issue of owning slaves, to letters from family (about various subjects), and then back to the main thread. It was very choppy and certainly drew my attention away from the main topic.

As I said previously – there is not a lot currently out there still in print about Sarah Childress Polk – this was the only one I could get my hands on even through the state library system. With those constraints, this book does provide great information if you can wade through the obstacles. If you were to only use this as a reference tool and pull information from it, it would probably be fine – however as a read it is certainly lacking.

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11/05/2011 page 34
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message 1: by Avel (new)

Avel Rudenko In this day and age, First Ladies don't have much of a story to tell. Well, First Lady Clinton probably has a criminal history to share. First Lady Bush probably has something to share on how well she could keep secrets told by Mr. Bush. First Lady Obama, how she spent over 10 million "public tax dollars" on vacations. Hey, the treasure chest is open, might as well spend it to extinction.

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