You all know by now that I am a massive fan of the musical Hamilton. When I first discovered and proceeded to fall in love with Hamilton a few years back, the first thing I did was to look into books about the ten-dollar Founding Father. I was not let down. Among them, My Dear Hamilton was one of the books that most intrigued me, and it’s actually the first-ever book I added to my TBR list.
So when I finally got the chance to read this book a few weeks ago, I was beyond excited. And once again, I was not disappointed. If you’re a fan of Hamilton, or historical fiction, or… books in general, go pick this up. Please. Plus, it was Eliza’s 263rd birthday just this past Saturday (August 8), so you have another good excuse to scrap your TBR and pick this book up! (Who says I’m a bad influence?)
TITLE: My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton
AUTHORS: Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
GENRE: Biographical, historical fiction
PUBLICATION: April 2018 by HarperCollins
RATING: ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑
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. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, 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 the imperfect union he could never have created without her…
Trigger warnings: Graphic injuries, loss of a loved one (parent, child, sibling, spouse), misogyny (typical of time period), miscarriage, violence, infidelity, slavery
There is a hidden influence behind every great thing. Behind the United States is the words that formed its foundation. Behind the words is Alexander Hamilton.
And behind Alexander Hamilton is Eliza.
Being the wife of a brilliant and tempestuous man like Alexander Hamilton most definitely must have been unimaginably difficult. From helping to deal with his inner demons, enduring late hours and reduced circumstances, living through the humiliation and shame of the infamous Reynolds Scandal, losing one beloved family member after another, coming to terms with the sometimes all too suggestive contents of Alexander’s letters, and opposing her numerous foes in cementing Alexander’s legacy, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton went through a lot as the wife of the lightning rod that is Hamilton. But Hamilton and the United States couldn’t have asked for more of her. She managed to deal with all of that, on top of helping to establish the very foundation that this nation is built on as a Founding Mother in her own right and never losing sight of who she is and what she stands for.
How could any woman know how to be the wife of a lightning rod?
I cannot form the words to express how beautiful this book is.
First of all, everyone should be able to observe the meticulous research and intimate detail with which Dray and Kamoie tell Eliza’s story. The tiniest aspects of life as a citizen of the newly formed United States are portrayed with the greatest detail. And I learned so many things about the time period, including exactly how chaotic the period right after the war was, with riots and mutinies and massacres being commonplace.
And the reader gets a front-row view of the politics of the time. Speaking of which, if you are a diehard Jeffersonian or Democratic-Republican — but imagine supporting Thomas Jefferson — I’M KIDDING COME BACK — I highly recommend that you either stay away from this book or change your political viewpoints before going into it. My Dear Hamilton has convinced me that Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe were disgusting specimens who plagiarized Hamilton’s policies after spending a lifetime trying to destroy his family for supporting those very same policies. And don’t even get me started on John Adams and Aaron Burr
(give us a verse drop some knowledge).
And though I didn’t know it then, my husband was the best writer of the founding generation. Oh, there are those who will argue that honor to a certain Virginian, but he receives enough applause from the rabble without my praise, and I despise him too much to credit his talents.
Secondly, Alexander. His character is portrayed in such a complex manner, exposing him for the brilliant, passionate, haunted, flawed patriot that he should be celebrated as. The influence of his troubled childhood never truly goes away, and his inner demons are illustrated both candidly and thoughtfully. He is such a fascinating historical figure, and I’m afraid I’ll never get enough of his character.
“But the measure of a man, of a life, of a union of man and wife or even country is not in the falling. It’s in the rising back up again to repair what’s broken, to put right what’s wrong. Your father and I did that. We always did that. He never stopped trying until the day he died. And neither will I.”
Lastly — because all the best things come last — Eliza. I loved every part of her character. Her character arc, her loving and kind and forgiving nature, her beginnings as an outdoorsy girl on Albany’s frontier, her earnest love for Alexander and her family, her desire for stability, her patriotism and stubbornness and impulsiveness and faithfulness and pillar-like strength — everything. Her character as separate from her husband’s is so well-formed that I have trouble believing that the real Eliza was all that different from the version in My Dear Hamilton.
As a narrative work, this book couldn’t be more flawless. It’s a brick of a book, clocking in at over 650 pages, but the slow pacing is so worth it. I’m not even sure exactly how many times I had to take a break from reading because of all the overflowing emotions. I can think of several scenes off the top of my head — the scene where Eliza and Alexander renew their wedding vows, Alexander’s final scene, Eliza’s conversation with the Marquis de Lafayette at the end of the book, her conversation with her son William, and of course her confrontation with Monroe. It takes a lot for a book to literally have tears streaming down my face, and even more for a book to appeal to my emotions so powerfully that I need more than one tissue to wipe my tears. Suffice it to say that My Dear Hamilton quite easily accomplishes the former and manages to breeze past the requirements of the latter.
I believe that all we worked for and built — the benign influence of good laws under a free government — will continue on as our happy reward, forever, never perishing from this earth. Even as I marvel that our starry banner of red, white, and blue still waves.
I also loved how the authors made sure to address all the parts of the Hamiltons’ life, including the parts that more biased and less informed writers might have chosen to skip over — including slavery’s role in the Schuyler family, Alexander’s possible affair with his sister-in-law, and his decidedly interesting relationship with John Laurens. Yet another thing I loved was how Eliza decides, in the end, to continue loving and supporting her husband and her nation, despite how much both have disappointed her. It’s a message that is sorely needed especially during these difficult times when it’s tempting to give up on our country.
All in all, this is a beautiful piece of historical fiction that I recommend to everyone and anyone. I learned so much, cried almost as much, and basically fell quite unashamedly in love with this book. My Dear Hamilton has something for pretty much everyone, and I find it hard to imagine anyone disliking this book.
Abby the Christian Bookworm
Eliza possesses a remarkable ability to marshal and direct [her] energies wisely (Galatians 5:22-23 MSG) in everything she does. She dedicates her time and energy to helping widows and orphans through her charity work. She manages to keep a clear head in times of adversity and is able to do what needs to be done. She doesn’t give in to opposition and lives a life of integrity. Most of all, she never loses sight of her faith in God. She is a role model: she follows St. Paul’s instructions to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:12).
Thank you if you stuck around to the end of this review of 1,000+ words. How about you? Have you read My Dear Hamilton? What are your favorite historical fiction books? Chat with me in the comments!