"Not since I read Erik Larson's Dead Wake have I had such an edge-of-my-seat immersion into historical events. . . . No study of Alexander Hamilton would be complete without reading this book."--Karen White, New York Times bestselling author From the New York Times bestselling authors of America's First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton--a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. In this haunting, moving, and beautifully written novel, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza's story as it's never been told before--not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal--but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right. A general's daughter... Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington's penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she's captivated by the young officer's charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton's bastard birth and the uncertainties of war. A founding father's wife... But the union they create--in their marriage and the new nation--is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all--including the political treachery of America's first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness. The last surviving light of the Revolution... When a duel destroys Eliza's hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband's enemies to preserve Alexander's legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she's left with one last battle--to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her...
I live in a better world because of Alexander Hamilton.
And so do we all." (Eliza Hamilton in My Dear Hamilton)
OMG, people, this book.
As a history nerd and former junior high social studies teacher, I've always been a bit of an Alexander Hamilton fan, even when I didn't agree 100% with every single choice he made in his personal(! Dude! What were you thinking???) or professional life. I vaguely remembered reading some about his wife in one of Cokie Roberts' books (Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation), but it was ages ago and I don't remember a whole lot.
Seriously, how is it possible that no one has written an actual biography of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton? I've had Chernow's book on my mental TBR's "when I've got a good chunk of time" shelf for some time--surely I'll manage it before seeing the musical next year, yes?--but of course Mr. Hamilton will be the focus of that work, not his wife. When I saw that Ms. Dray and Ms. Kamoie were writing a biographical historical fiction version of her life? I was beyond excited. I'd loved America's First Daughter, after all (even if I can never think of Thomas Jefferson in quite the same way again) and knew they'd do an equally amazing job telling Eliza's story.
They did not disappoint! Though the story had me captivated from start to finish, the author notes at the end were equally engrossing. Separating fact from fiction and hearing their reasoning behind the choices they made when fictionalizing Eliza's life was absolutely fascinating. The Telling Her Story: How My Dear Hamilton Differs from Hamilton: An American Musical section was just as fascinating, and I completely blame these two authors if just hearing the words "I'm not throwing away my shot" makes me burst into tears from this point on. (I may also spend much of my time at the musical performance next year glaring at the actress who plays Angelica. Don't judge.)
I really can't recommend this book enough. If you love American history (but perhaps wonder where the women are in the history books...?) read this. If you're an Alexander Hamilton fan--whether you already have/are going to/want to see/or have never heard of (if that's the case, where the heck have you been?) the musical version of his life, read this. If you love books about strong but flawed heroines, read this.
Heck, just read this book. You won't be sorry. Since I now have an audio, print, and ebook copy, you'd better believe this book has now been shifted to my "I'm going to read this again, and again, and again..." shelf. I'll try to resist the urge to read it again right now somehow.
To distract myself, a re-read of Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation is most definitely in order...and maybe Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation too, while I'm at it...maybe it's even time to seriously consider picking up Chernow's book...?
However, I'll probably never be a Thomas Jefferson fan again...just sayin'. This novel did not at all improve my opinion of him...
Rating: 5 stars / A
It is delightfully hefty book that allows the reader to sit down and truly get immersed in the subjects of the tale. The problem faced by the authors as they explained in the note at the end is that there was very little left in the historical record specifically about Eliza. It’s as if the men in her life sucked up all that would be remembered and left only crumbs for her. Given the times in which she came of age and the company she kept I suppose it could be understood. When your father is fighting to found your country and your husband is molding it – what is left for you? It also wasn’t exactly a time that revered the efforts of women was it? The authors had to rely upon those crumbs and then do what fiction writers do – imagine.
Imagine they did using their extensive research and knowledge of the era. But while this is Eliza’s story, Hamilton does overwhelm her as soon as he appears in the pages. From the moment they are introduced it is all about him. I can’t say that I liked him. I also can’t say that I have much to compare this characterization t0 so I don’t know if it is accurate to his personality or not. He did suck the air out of any room he was in and even after he was dead it was Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton.
Eliza was apparently a very devoted wife.
It was a very good read, as annoyed as I got at Mr. Hamilton. I also wonder how this country survived it’s first few decades. I really need to do more reading of American history. The story of Eliza, so dedicated to her husband and to her country is a fascinating look at the woman behind the man who did so much for a country that did not always respect him or his ideas. It is very much worth reading.
Succumbing to the attentions paid her by young Colonel Alexander Hamilton, aide to Commander in Chief George Washington, her life along the bucolic Hudson River suddenly picked up its pace and never slowed until her final days. She was Hamilton's committed partner, lover, bride and bearer of many children and always subject to public scrutiny, given the fame of her husband. She was the epitome of those words of 1 Coninthians 13:7, "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
Co-authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie within the book's accompanying notes clearly state that the historic record is a bit skimpy as to the details of Eliza's life. Through their extensive research by study of the rich historical records of other noteworthy individuals of the day and research visits to historical places, they have painted a vivid tableau of this strong female character of the American Revolution and the nation's formative days. The writing is rich, painterly and impeccably done. One is transported in place and time and dropped right into the thick of things. I eagerly look forward to reading more works by these two authors.
I am grateful to publisher William Morrow and Goodreads First Reads for having provided a free advance reader's edition of this book. Their generosity, however, did not influence this review - the words of which are mine alone.
Synopsis (from book's back cover):
A general’s daughter…
Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.
A founding father’s wife...
But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.
The last surviving light of the Revolution…
When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and the imperfect union he could never have created without her…
I didn't rate this book higher because for the first part of the book Alexander was so petulant and vengeful that I didn't believe Eliza could love him. I felt she was confusing physical attraction and love of his ideals with love for the man. Later their relationship changed so that I could believe Eliza was in love with her husband.
These next couple points seem picky, but I mention them because they pulled me out of the story:
Some of Eliza's speech seemed modern. For example, regardless of how she felt about slavery, given the time period, isn't more likely that she would have described Sally Hemings as Jefferson's mulatto slave rather than Jefferson's "enslaved mulatto"?
And was Eliza really pregnant for a year? One chapter starts with a heading telling us it is September 1791. On the next page Eliza tells us, "When the winter's snow came...I was again with child." By the next page it is December 1792 and Alexander describes Eliza as "too far gone with child". On December 12, 1792, Eliza has a newborn. A silly mistake that resulted in a brief but unfortunate distraction.
I do look forward to reading the authors' next book. I would love for them to write about Abigail Adams or Dolly Madison.
I don't remember how I found out about this book, My Dear Hamilton, but finally bought a copy and loved it. Wow. As mentioned in other reviews, it's a fictional biography of Hamilton's wife. It starts before she meets Hamilton and ends years after his death. So much good stuff in this book...I wish I'd paid a little more attention in history class about this time period and about the early government.
If you're a fan of history, early government times, and/or Hamilton, I strongly recommend this book. I finished reading it several days ago, but I can't let it go yet.
I dove into this story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton with reckless abandon. At over 600 pages, I knew I would be lost in Eliza's story of scandal and triumph. From the prologue, when we meet Eliza as an older woman and a widow and she states "Silence is often the only weapon available to ladies. And I wield mine expertly," I knew that this was going to be a strong character that I could easily identify with. Eliza's story begins when she is a young adult, the daughter of a general on trial for treason. Right from here, I could see her determination shine through; she was on a mission to prove that a daughter or wife could make a difference. Through Eliza's eyes and experiences, I could see the Revolutionary War and America's early days in a new light. I had known of Hamilton's major accomplishments; however, with Eliza's view I now know just how much work he put into founding our country as well as Eliza's influence and guiding hands. Through Eliza's narrative, I learned of the roles of the Native American Tribes, the bravery and tenacity of the African-American troops and the overall devastation that the war caused for so many. With the excellent partnership of Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie's writing skills, Eliza Hamilton and the Founding Fathers come to life. Complete with extraordinary and intricate historical detail, I could imagine every argument, meeting and setting with ease. Overall, I learned the lengths that Hamilton went to make sure his legacy for the foundations of the United States was set. Complete with love, loss, scandal and war, My Dear Hamilton is one of my favorite reads this year.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Along with Tilar Mizzeo’s recent work, this work seeks to fill that gap. Well-researched and well-conceived, this book imagines what the emotional life of one of America’s first mothers would have been like. Historically, Eliza shows up frequently, but again, first-hand knowledge of her voice seems sparse. Dray and Kamoie imagine her inner life among all of a newly-born Republic’s twists and turns.
Together, they paint a picture of a lady of deep character, deep religious faith, yet susceptible to political rivalries and emotional hurts. To them, Eliza clearly learned much from her brilliant husband. She never forgave Aaron Burr for her husband’s murder nor others who wounded her husband’s reputation. So much in her life that was unresolved. And yet, in Dray and Kamoie’s imaginations, Eliza maintained her inner integrity, probably in excess of her husband.
This is a feminist work, a work of a woman who overcomes all the nastiness that life has to offer. It proudly shows the contribution of women to life. It serves as a reminder that modern democracy was birthed not only by first fathers but also by first mothers. These first mothers include Martha Washington, Dolley Madison, and a host of others portrayed in this novel.
So is it any good? A thousand times, yes. The authors show a mastery of the historical record, the human condition, American politics, and gender. They delve into matters to a depth that has rarely ever been matched in portrayals of the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary periods. Readers interested in American history, politics, and fiction will find much to delight in.
The story though and the trials Eliza Hamilton went through were really tough and I'm left with a sadness to think of all that she and her family went through. Even though the authors crafted a list of books they encountered during the research, I'm hesitant to delve into the intricacies of the Hamilton history any more than I already have, because it felt so emotional at times. Also a mark of brilliant writing, to bring forth so many feelings and empathy.
I also want to note how interesting it is to see the food and drink of the era threaded throughout the book. I LOVE those kinds of details and it does kinda make me want to throw a Founding Fathers' and Females Food Fiesta! (Peep that alliteration, kids.)
I can't promise I caught all the food references, but here's the list I wrote down at the front of the book, in case you're a fan of food facts too. I mostly recorded page numbers too except for once, inexplicably, but it was the first one I wrote down, so I suppose that's less annoying. I'll find the page number eventually!
- Stewed pears in spiced wine with fresh cream
- Cold ham with thick slices of bread and butter (p. 231)
- Chocolate creams in fluted crystal glasses and a silver tray of caraway confits (p. 421)
- Oysters, striped bass, seasoned cabbage and carrots, claret, madeira wine, spiced bonny clabber made from soured milk for dessert (p. 19)
- Yellow plum preserves, short-crust biscuits, strong tea (p. 19)
- Warmed cider (p. 71)
- Rum punch
- Honey cakes, marzipan, candied almonds, olie-koeken (p. 132)
- Raspberry leaf tea with honey (p. 149)
- Beef tongue, peas and potatoes in an herbed butter sauce (p. 194)
- Roast duck and dumplings, pork with cabbage, imported chocolates, baked apples and raisins, cinnamon bark and koekjes (cookies) (p. 132)
- Smoked salmon (p. 210)
- Coffee, freshly ground (p. 226)
- Whiskey and waffles (p. 230)
- Porridge (p. 246)
- Sparkling wine (p. 254)
- Raspberry leaves for cramps, lavender oil for headache (p. 249)
- Pork, custard-filled profiteroles (p. 262)
- Freshly-made lemonade (p. 280)
- Madeira, peas, greens and vegetables of every variety (p. 289)
- Apple pie (p. 295)
- Lemon cake (p. 330)
- Rye-flour peppernoot cookies, fragrant with cinnamon, anise and clove (p.321)
- Bark tonic for fever (p. 339)
- Lemon ice (p. 366)
- Cold mutton, buttered bread (p. 379)
- Veal, wartime tripe stew (p. 419)
- Raspberry tarts, fresh strawberry jam shortbread cookies, cherry pie (p. 483)
So if you end up having a fancy founders' party, tag me in your Instagram pics! I'm @booksbrewsandbooze!
My knowledge of Mr. Hamilton was extremely limited and knew zilch about his wife with the exception of her being one of three sisters. The book is well researched and worth the time to read this lengthy book.
I don't know a lot about early American history, so Eliza's story - and through her, Alexander's, as with the musical, I believe - was informative (if biased in favour of the protagonists, as the authors admit). But - and I think this says more about me - what I took away from the novel was how similar Alexander and Eliza's marriage was to John F Kennedy and wife Jacqueline's ten year powerhouse pairing. Maybe I'm obsessed, but the parallels really stood out while reading! Primarily, of course, there is the fact that Eliza became the keeper of her husband's legacy after his death (he was also shot, but in a duel by a political rival): 'His memory, which I must honour for the sake of our children if nothing else, is impossible for me to escape,' Eliza explains in the first chapter.
Coming from an influential Dutch family - her father was a general during the revolution - Eliza was not considered to be a beauty next to her sister Angelica, and so fell hard for the charming 'winsome man with captivating eyes'. She sensed in Hamilton 'wounds that perhaps could not be healed' - he was an immigrant from the West Indies, the illegitimate son of a woman thrown in jail for being a prostitute - but Eliza wanted to be the woman to try. They married and had many children, but Hamilton's affair with the wife of an opponent was a great scandal - which Hamilton was forced to publicly admit to. 'What did Eliza know? That's what everyone wonders.' Sound familiar? JFK's sexual transgressions didn't become news until long after his death, but like Eliza, Jackie chose to stay: 'For whatever wrongs he'd done to me, he'd also given me a happier life than I believed myself destined for'. After Hamilton's death, which followed the death of her younger sister, mother and eldest son, and was followed by losing her father, Eliza discovered that Hamilton might have had an affair with her eldest sister, Angelica, too - again, like Jackie and her sister Lee. Eliza eventually decides to honour his memory, understanding that her 'needy, insecure' husband 'could never forego and impulse or resist the affections he'd been starved of as a child'. Family friend Lafayette tells her, 'He was not a perfect man, but he was a great one.'
Anyway! Aside from my own niche interpretation, Alexander and Eliza's story is full of history and action - 'court martials, battles, duels and mutinies', 'scandals, riots, plagues and mental illnesses too', as the afterword sums up their lives. Nearly 600 pages, but my mind only wandered through some of the more expositional political debates! Now I just need to watch the musical.
On the other hand, she can be haughtily silent, with only the reader knowing what her disdainful thoughts are. Monroe comes to visit her; there was apparently somewhat of a relationship in the past. When he shown into the parlor he stutters and is very ill-at-ease.
"I don't say anything. In truth, I take perverse pleasure in the pained yearning I imagine I see upon Monroe's face as I force him to founder against the wall of my silence...I wield mine expertly".
Yes, any man is a stumbling, bumbling simpleton against her expert psychological superiority.
Ah well, I shall continue with this five-times-to-long book.
Eliza's story is far too tumultuous and long, almost one hundred years, for me to say much here. It's well known that she is responsible for saving much of Hamilton's correspondence, essays and other writing, dogging both his friends and enemies, even taking them to court, to obtain documents that were important to the establishment of an American government. She was also an advocate for poor women and children, something women of her social class wouldn't normally do, and after her husband's death worked as the manager of an orphanage.
Although this is a novel, the writers share their research with readers. It is their custom to make visits to sites connected to the subject and I enjoy reading about their experiences and impressions of those places that still remain. They also make the list of all of their sources available online, something that few writers of historical fiction do.
At about 650 pages, the authors are through and professional. The book is very readable though and gives us a better understanding of what Revolutionary women committed to being and doing.
I think I should note that Stephanie Dray is a former teacher and lawyer and Laura Kamoie has a doctorate in history and is a former assistant professor at the U.S. Navel Academy. They both live near Washington, D.C.
I love historical fiction and although it was very difficult for the author to write a book on so few resources, she read both the well founded and not so well founded (gossipy)and was very careful to stick to the truth as much as possible. Had Eliza Hamilton been allowed to listen to the book along with me, she might have been embarrassed a few times but I feel that she would agree that this is a true portrait of her and Alexander Hamilton as possible.
I remember at the beginning that I was a little lost at the opening of the book at Eliza's anger at her husband but that was because the book started in the middle of the story. At the beginning, there was a lot of detail about her father that I did not at the time understand. But several discs, I got drawn into the story and wished that I could spend the day listeniog to it. Thirteen pages of notes, front and back I took. I cried several times, particurly at her son's death and when Eliza and Alexander were both sick and did not know if they would survive. I highly recommend this book in the audio version. Please do not give up on it quickly, it is well worth sticking it out to the end.