Hillary Clinton’s march to becoming the first woman president of the US is now unstoppable. Her advantages going into the general election: Likely opponent Donald Trump (69) will drive disgusted voters to her, including young idealists who were less impressed by her historic candidacy than by the leftism of Bernie Sanders; plus Trump has demolished the Republican establishment, so its key operatives will be lukewarm towards him, at best. She will also be propelled by the prolonged and polarizing fight over President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. These political factors will overcome her one flaw: her opaque personality, which Karen Blumenthal tries to humanize with her biography, Hillary.

Hillary, 68, and husband Bill have previously written mind-numbing memoirs. Bill’s My Life was as exciting as any Indian politician’s and Hillary’s Hard Choices was a laundry-list account of her four years as secretary of state (the only American memoir I look forward to is Obama’s, because his Dreams From My Father: A Story Of Race And Inheritance was so good). Still, the current election makes you want to pick up Blumenthal’s volume, to get through “the several layers of Plexiglas" (as The New Yorker once described talking to her) to find out whether she is more than “pushy, cold, and domineering", words that have been used to describe her these past 25 years.

“Though she was often painted as a far-left liberal, there was still a lot of the Goldwater Girl left in Hillary, who was at heart a pragmatic, moderate Democrat". This is the running theme, unlike earlier biographies by Carl Bernstein or Gail Sheehy, which tried unsuccessfully to get to the woman within. So the book is peppered with “responsible" and “pragmatic". It fits snugly into Hillary’s political agenda of the moment, though Blumenthal says at the end that she was unable to speak to her subject. Such a politically helpful book can only reinforce the fact that Hillary is “pragmatic", but also “cold and domineering", for it does not break through her Plexiglas.

It is a breezy read and provides a handy summary of Hillary’s life. From her childhood as a conservative (she didn’t like Catcher In The Rye as a young adult) and devout Christian, to becoming an outspoken feminist at Wellesley College and Yale Law School, we see a woman who is smart but not a topper, political but not radical, consensus-seeking rather than confrontational. Her warm love story with Bill brings out their differing styles: He is outgoing, conversational and sloppy, while she is introverted, lawyerly and precise. “Bill sees the light and sunshine about people, and Hillary sees their darker side," his campaign manager says. She never opens up to the press, but when she does talk, she “(leaves) the impression...that she was giving only part of the story".

She worked on the Watergate prosecution in the 1970s and was a rising star but gave it up for Bill when he ran for office in 1978. That theirs was a rocky marriage is mentioned occasionally. Interestingly, the day he is impeached for lying to prosecutors about his affair with Monica Lewinsky is the day she launches her political career, confirming that she will run for the US Senate from New York. She was hurt, no doubt, but she stuck on with Bill—and it helped her no end with her political identity.

She won the first race she ever contested, in part because her opponent Rick Lazio was aggressive with her; during a televised debate, he jabbed a finger at her. She immediately grabbed his hand and shook it. “Women in particular felt like he had bullied her—and they had seen enough of that," Blumenthal says. Trump, take note.

This even-handed biography is not, however, a magnifying glass. There are the minimum required anecdotes but none that are fly-on-the-wall. You never get a sense of the passage of time—the book seems like a thinly fleshed-out version of the timeline needlessly tacked on at the end. You don’t get a feel of how her marriage hurt Hillary, or why she stuck on, even if she herself did not know whether it would outlast Monicagate.

The book glosses over how Bill crippled her 2008 presidential campaign with his remarks in South Carolina about Obama that repelled black voters. And the ticking-bomb email controversy is tucked in between her preparations for daughter Chelsea’s wedding and her mother’s death, so that it appears as a casual oversight by someone distracted by life-marking personal matters. That these two moments are the most personal in the book is more telling than anything else; that they are linked to the controversy may be by design, which would be the most telling thing about Hillary.

Aditya Sinha is the co-author of former RAW chief A.S. Dulat’s memoir, Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years.

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