Read by Cassandra Campbell
Source: checked out from my local library
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…
You all know how much I love Lin Manuel-Miranda's Hamilton so you can readily imagine why I picked this book up and that I spent most of the book comparing it to what I've learned about Hamilton and Eliza through that musical. Let's be honest, I loved these two people by the end of that musical, even knowing Hamilton's flaws. If this book had been my introduction to him, though, I'd almost certainly have had a much different opinion of the man.
Eliza tells her story, looking back in time. Imagine the differences in the impressions you'd get of a man if you were hearing about him from a friend if she were telling you the story as it developed versus first hearing her talk about him when she's an older woman, when a full life of experience has been laid over those early impressions. Her reminisces are colored by the ways that Hamilton has failed her. Dray and Kamoie have decided that the rumors of Hamilton's relationships with his sister-in-law, Angelica, and his friend, John Laurens are fact, facts that Eliza doesn't become aware of until after his death. It makes it hard to imagine that she spent so much of her later years working to preserve his legacy.
As a story about the founding of this country, and Hamilton's impact on it, I very much enjoyed this book. Unfortunately, again perhaps because of my previous opinions, I didn't care as much for the way the story of Eliza's and Alexander's relationship was told. Some of that had to do with the authors having Eliza adopting something of a "stand by my man" attitude but, at the same time, what often felt like a quickness to believe the worst of him.
It's clear that Dray and Kamoie have done their research, drawing extensively from letters available to them. But at 23 hours long, even given the time span involved in the story and the characters and time period involved, it began to feel as if the book were dragging on. The authors seemed to hang too long onto some scenes; imagine the length had they chosen that approach throughout. The saving grace of a book this long was that Cassandra Campbell is the reader and she does, as she always does, a wonderful job.
Reviews of this book are almost universally glowing which makes me wonder what I missed. If I were grading this book, it would earn a "C." For me it was, at best, another good launching off place. I'm eager to learn more about both Hamilton and Eliza, probably nonfiction.