Alexander Hamilton’s legacy would have sadly been left by the wayside if not for the work of his wife, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. A brave woman in her own right, Eliza was the daughter of a Major General, adopted by the Oneida tribe, the mother of eight children, and founder of two orphanages in New York City. She helped her husband with his work and if anything was his “right hand” woman. Eliza finally gets her own story told in a splendid new historical fiction novel, My Dear Hamilton.
My Dear Hamilton tells Eliza’s story from her teenage years until her death with the major focus being on her turbulent life with Alexander Hamilton. Their great love endured even with the first major political sex scandal and the untimely death of their son.
I love reading historical fiction and it’s always a delight to read historical fiction on America’s past. I’ve read America’s First Daughter by the same authors and have enjoyed that as well. I love listening to the music from the musical Hamilton and would love to see it live. Authors Dray and Kamoie love the musical as well and it was the musical that inspired them to write the book from Eliza’s point of view.
I really liked how the story was framed with an elderly Eliza receiving a visit from former President James Monroe. The book gave a history to their story together and why Eliza would not forgive him.
I really enjoyed that the novel included the Oneida people and how they were affiliated with Eliza’s family, America’s struggle for freedom, and with Alexander Hamilton himself as he started a school for the tribe. It was poignant towards the end of the book when Marquis de Lafayette came to visit and asked about the tribe only to be told they had been driven out. Part of the tribe is actually not far from me in Green Bay. They traveled through the Great Lakes and found a new homeland in Wisconsin, but it’s still a struggle today for the tribe to keep their tribal land.
Slavery is also a side story in the book with Eliza’s family owning slaves. I always forget that people did own slaves in the North at the start of our country. For example, poet Phyllis Wheatly was a slave in New York City. Eliza and multiple founding fathers struggle with this issue. The authors discuss at the end of the book in their note that the revolutionary war wasn’t just fought by white men in powdered wigs, there were people of all races involved. I appreciated that real look at history.
The book really brought the founding fathers alive and how they all struggle and had issues with each other. One thing I’ve found personally interesting is that in books, movies, and the musical, it’s always framed that Hamilton is a hero and Jefferson a villain or Jefferson is the hero and Hamilton is a villain. I think it was much greyer than that. Both men did a lot to create our country and make it what it is today, and both men were far from perfect with great sins of their own to contemplate.
As a wife and mother, I’ll admit, I had a hard time with Eliza’s forgiveness of Hamilton after the affair was discovered before his death. I don’t know if I could be that forgiving. I liked that after Hamilton’s death, Eliza struggled a lot after she read through his personal correspondence wondering if he had loved her after all and had a very hard time forgiving him. It wasn’t until after a candid talk with Lafayette that she could learn to move on and love the man he was even with all of his flaws.
Lafayette’s trip later in life back to America was riveting to read about. I also was amazed that in her eighties Eliza traveled to the wilds of Wisconsin to visit her son. I can’t imagine in that time period traveling out to that far and returning when in your eighties!
I LOVED the extras as the back of the book. It included a note from the author about the actual history the book was based on, discussion questions, a conversation with the authors, and how the book differs from the musical.
“Forgetting would lift the weighty cloak of the past from my shoulders and make the present so much easier. But memory unalterably sets our compass and guides us down paths we might have preferred never to have walked at all.”
“As if the notion that all men were created equal somehow meant that one need not aspire to knowledge and ability – all distinctions of class, breeding, or merit discarded, all notions of civility deserted.”
“I hadn’t married a man. I’d married a mythic hero who’d driven a carriage of the sun across the sky. No other husband could ever measure up against my dear Hamilton, and it would be cruel to make any man try.”
“He was not a perfect man. But he was a great one. It is only plain justice that his wife should remember him better. And his country, too.”
“It seems, to me that the only just way to judge a person is by the sum of their deeds, good and bad.”
Overall, My Dear Hamilton was a riveting read about one of our nation’s founding mothers and the start of our country. What makes a person remembered and can they still be a good person even with serious flaws?
Book Source: Review Copy from William Morrow. Thank-you!