This book focuses on the White House years of Andrew Jacksons life. A surprising amount of Jacksons story centers around the scandalous marriage of one of his long-time supporters and Cabinet members (was she still married? was she not?), but other colorful characters abound as well Calhoun, Clay, Van Buren. Meacham also gives a great deal of attention to the women in the White House (who often remain behind the scenes).
For some reason, Jackson did not seem like a compelling character in this book. He was smart, politically astute, and stubborn. He staved off secession of South Carolina (and perhaps other states), and he clearly changed the nature of the presidency. But I never glimpsed his soul in this book. He remains for me a far-off politician important historically, but still only a face on the twenty dollar bill.
Parts of the book are hard to read if only because you're reading about such an internally inconsistent egomaniac who thought slavery was tons of fun and a great thing to do, that ignoring past treaties with the Cherokee nation was pretty cool, and that a minority group within the Cherokee nation who agreed to be transplanted west of the Mississippi was binding on the whole tribe, and that the US was therefore justified when it forcibly moved the tribe, and who thought he was a great champion of liberty and the savior of the union.
But he's an important president, and a huge figure necessary for the understanding of where the modern presidency came from. And this book does give you that.
It's not great as a biography - it really is about his two administrations with a little bit of bumper on either side, but it gives a great sense of him, of his cabinet, and of his political opponents John Calhoun and Henry Clay.
Also, the federal bank was probably a bad thing and I'm glad he relentlessly pursued and destroyed it.