MY DEAR HAMILTON by Stephanie Dray


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Eliza Hamilton claims her own place in American history.

This latest in the recent onslaught of Hamilton novels (The Hamilton Affair, by Elizabeth Cobbs, 2016, etc.) is narrated by the great man's wife, Eliza, also known by her childhood name of Betsy. Since Eliza is telling the story after her husband’s death, her mature perspective often casts doubt on her youthful one, as when she views her initial assessment of Hamilton’s loyalty against her later experience of his infidelity. If readers aren’t already familiar with Hamilton’s imbroglios, his widow's rueful recollections would guarantee spoilers galore. Eliza, the tomboyish daughter of pioneer, planter, slaveholder, general, and politician Philip Schuyler, sets male hearts aflutter, including that of future president James Monroe. Her reputation as “the finest tempered girl in the world” attracts more financially secure suitors, but she chooses Gen. Washington’s aide-de-camp, Hamilton, and marries him in 1780. Through Eliza’s eyes we are treated to an in-depth portrait of Hamilton, not to mention forward-looking psychoanalysis of his genius and personality defects. With his formidable intellect and powers of concentration, he is able to almost single-handedly shape the new democracy’s economy and tax structure. On the other hand, his hypersensitivity due to his illegitimate birth and hardscrabble childhood seems at regular intervals to unravel his best intentions. Episodic rather than plot-driven, the novel suffers from Dray and Kamoie's (America's First Daughter, 2016) seeming inability to choose what to summarize and what to depict as scenes in the book. Cliffhangers introduced very early are dropped, such as the first time Hamilton rides off to quell a mutiny, or take far too long to pay off, like a hinted-at romance between Hamilton and Eliza’s sister Angelica. Still, the novel is unflinching in detailing Eliza’s reactions, for example in her fraught encounters with Monroe throughout her life, her pre-duel compassion for Aaron Burr, and her many frustrations as Hamilton’s helpmeet, moral center, and de facto literary executor.

Hamilton often took Eliza’s advice but, the authors imply, not often enough.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-06-246616-7
Page count: 672pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2018


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