Monday, April 30, 2018

ARC Review: My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Pub. Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher:William Morrow
Length:652 pgs

I love the Dray-Kamoie writing duo. I think I've learned more from these two ladies than I did in my entire high school American History class. That is just sad. But their captivating writing draws me in and keeps me turning the page (until 3:30am consequentially). I only wish more authors of history books wrote in this storytelling style as we would surely retain more than I did from the bare recitation of facts in a history book.

My Dear Hamilton is the story about Elizabeth Schulyer Hamilton, the wife and champion of founding father, Alexander Hamilton. Told from Eliza's point of view, we get an intimate and eye-opening glimpse into the life of a great, but flawed, man. We also see the strength and courage of a female patriot of the time, working to support her husband through thick and thin, despite danger, strife and betrayal. I have the utmost respect for Eliza, truly one of the mother's of our great country.

Alexander Hamilton struggled with many things in his life, but mostly got lost in his ambition to overcome the stigma of his illegitimate birth. At times it seemed that Hamilton cared more for his ambition than those around him, but you could never deny that he was a true patriot and loved his country. Probably one of his greatest faults was his temper and unwillingness to overlook a slight. Once you became an enemy of Hamilton, it was a grudge that he held forever and often went out of his way to exact revenge. Unfortunately, others often got hurt in the process, and Eliza was the one getting the shaft on more than one occasion. Much like the last story, America's First Daughter, the authors didn't pull punches when it came to the founding fathers. They put it everything on the page, warts and all, and, as a result, we obtain a more well-rounded picture of the men who have been placed on historical pedestals. Does that take away from their greatness? Sometimes. But it also makes them more relatable human beings.

So much of what I want to talk about in this review would probably be a spoiler... in as much as you can spoil historical events. But for those who aren't familiar with Hamilton, they would probably prefer to obtain their information from the story than my review. 

Things that I didn't know about Hamilton, I learned after his death (in the book) right along with Eliza. While there was a small amount of foreshadowing, I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I couldn't imagine being in Eliza's place. Is it better to learn of these things in life, or after everyone has left this mortal coil? Who do you rage at when they are not there? While I already admired her person and accomplishments, her strength in holding things together for her family amazed me tenfold. For a woman who suffered the death of children, parents and husband in such a short time, I don't know how she didn't fall apart. 

I was glad that the story didn't end with Hamilton's death, as Eliza outlived him by nearly 50 years. She went on to continue her philanthropic deeds, founding charities and schools and even keeping her finger on the political pulse of the country. And while her faith in Hamilton was temporarily shaken, we come to realize right along with her character that a man can have flaws and commit sins, but still be a great and yes, honorable, man. You can't deny Hamilton's contributions to America, and now I am glad to know all the things his wife did for family and country. 

I voluntarily reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, William Morrow. I can't wait to see who these authors write about next. I think I'm most interested in Dolley Madison, but I hope to also one day see a story about Mary Todd Lincoln.

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