Book Reviews

Book Review: My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

I was very surprised at how much I learned from this fictionalized account of the life of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton. I generally enjoy history, and this book is much like Mount Vernon Love Story as it interweaves history with drama and romance, creating a vision of what life was like for this woman at the beginning of the United States.

How much is true and how much is fictionalized is sometimes hard to discern. In the appendix at the end, authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie state they have done much research, including reading the definitive book about Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. It sounds like they put together what was known about her life and her personality from a variety of sources, then filled in the rest to create a great story that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

The story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton begins before she met him, trying to be a good, supportive daughter to her father, General Philip Schuyler. As the book begins, he was relieved of command and under investigation for treason. Having accompanied her father on many of his assignments, especially among the natives in Northern New York State. When she travels to Morristown, New Jersey it is there that she meets Alexander Hamilton while he is serving as one of George Washington’s aides.

What follows is a remarkable tale of a woman at the center of the birth of this country. From the Revolutionary War to the writing and ratification of the Constitution, to the early controversies of our country, Eliza is there. She raises a family while supporting her husband and even helping him at times with his writing.

I was quite surprised by just how divided this country was almost as soon as it began. In my history classes, it was always presented as if from Washington to Adams to Jefferson and beyond there was unity. There may have been petty squabbles in Congress, but our leadership was respected and there was unity behind them. My Dear Hamilton makes the case that this wasn’t so. There were many reservations about Washington’s performance as a General until he began to chalk up a string of victories. John Adams, our second President, was considered insane by some. Thomas Jefferson was considered an atheist at the time and was more for states’ rights than a strong central government. People feared his election meant the end of the country. These facts give me hope for our country today.

Eliza Hamilton lived to be 97 years, from before this country was a country almost up to the Civil War. She saw much in her time. Although My Dear Hamilton focuses mostly on the years of the Revolutionary War to Alexander’s death. When he is killed by Aaron Burr in a duel, she is not only heartbroken but angry. Her perspective is that those in opposition to Alexander’s ideals engineered not only his death but the death of their son as well. This is one of the reasons she sort of retreats from society.

If you enjoy historical fiction, this is probably one of the best books I’ve read about this period of time in our country. It flowed nicely and was rich in detail, making me feel like I was there. Elizabeth interacts with many people I’ve read about in history books, and the authors really bring them to life. I not only put these authors’ other works on my “To Read” list, but all of Ron Chernow’s work as well. Anything that sparks a reader to dig deeper is well worth a shot.

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