Eliza Hamilton: The Extraordinary Life and Times of the Wife of Alexander Hamilton Hardcover – September 18, 2018
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"Tilar Mazzeo brings Eliza Hamilton to life in this first ever comprehensive biography of a woman who is known solely for the man she married but whose courage and generosity are revealed here. Fast-paced and reads like a novel." -- ―Kate Andersen Brower, New York Times bestselling author of First Women
“Tilar Mazzeo has made me fall in love with the enchanting, but refreshingly real Eliza Hamilton. An important portrait of a woman as intriguingly complicated and now as deservedly memorable as her husband.” -- ―Stacy Horn, author of Dalmatian Island
“Drawing from an impressive breadth of sources… this is an expertly told story that’s certain to captivate Hamilton fans and intrigue anyone interested in early U.S. history.” -- ―Publishers Weekly
"Mazzeo's Eliza appears stoic, loyal, and canny." -- ―Kirkus
"Tilar Mazzeo has given us the profound gift of getting to know more fully the extraordinary woman whose legacy we are honored to carry forward today. Eliza Hamilton inspires!" -- ―Jess Dannhauser, president and CEO of Graham Windham
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.18 pounds
- Hardcover : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1501166301
- ISBN-13 : 978-1501166303
- Product Dimensions : 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Gallery Books (September 18, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #432,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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But, it all fell apart with Mazzeo's handling of the Reynolds affair. In choosing to promote the narrative espoused only by Alexander Hamilton's enemies and one Jeffersonian historian in the 20th century, Mazzeo lost credibility with me. She ignored instead of confronting information that was contrary to her preferred narrative. And reading her Author's Note, only made it worse. She considered these sources objective while Hamilton biographers were too subjective? (Republican newspapers in the 18th century were anything but objective; the same was true of Federalist presses.)
But the worst part of this, for me personally, is that Mazzeo's confessed inability to understand why Eliza would've stayed with and supported Hamilton if he was unfaithful drove her not only to take up this narrative, but in doing so she undercut the character of her subject. Her narrative makes the "saintly," pious Eliza Hamilton culpable of incessant lying for decades. (Which is the opposite of everything we know about her.) The author would've been better served by exploring her own perceptions and prejudices more so she could more effectively check them before publishing this book. (It wasn't only 18th century women -- with little power if divorced -- who stayed with unfaithful spouses. 21st century people do the same. And to infer that to stay would've made Eliza a dupe is to disrespect anyone who has made that decision. People stay for a myriad of reasons -- often ones that highlight just how strong they are. But the author discounted all of this.) And that's something I can't look past ....
The way the author wrote this was incredibly frustrating, starting with the first sentence on the first page: "Eliza blushed. It was a beautiful letter." After reading the first page, I actually checked to make sure this was a biography and not another fictional account of her life. The rest of the book continued this way, with the author filling in holes with her own ideas of what Eliza would have said or done in a situation, based on what little we know of her. There aren't a lot of primary source documents authored by Eliza, so most of what the author relies on are other peoples REACTIONS to her letters & actions. Yes, you can make inferences from that, but the fact is that since we don't have letters or diaries from Eliza for the bulk of her life, most of what is written here is sappy conjecture.
The theory about the Maria Reynolds scandal was also a bit over the top. The author believes the idea that there was no actual affair, and that the Reynolds Pamphlet was just a cover up for Hamilton's shady financial dealings, and that Eliza went along with the deceit to protect the male members of her family from debtors prison. Is that theory true? Maybe. But in making this theory look better, she deliberately left out information that should be shared in an attempt to give validation to her theory.
But my biggest issue with this book is the amount of time that her post Hamilton life receives: 53 pages. She lived without him for almost 50 years. This section of her life deserves more than a pathetic 50 pages.
Also. WHY WOULD A BIOGRAPHY OF ELIZA HAMILTON HAVE A WOMAN WHO ISN'T ELIZA ON THE COVER? That is absolutely insane. Apparently there was an issue in obtaining the rights to use the painting the author wanted to use, so she settled for this women. Why? Why not use a different type of cover art? Something abstract or typographic. But how is it even remotely okay to use a photo of someone unrelated to the subject on the cover of a "biography".
Top reviews from other countries
Whilst staying true to the letters and anecdotes collected over the centuries, The author also litters the text with anecdotes that aren’t necessarily true, thoughts and feelings are placed into the chapters as if this was a work of fiction.
I also had a few gripes with the facts presented. I’ll outline by saying that I have the hardcover edition printed in September 2018 - if the publishers have recognised my following remarks in later prints then fair enough. More than once there is a mistake on the family tree - birth and death dates are wrong (Phillip Hamilton died in 1802, not in 1808) but for me at least, small errors like this detract from an otherwise enjoyable read. Another reviewer has pointed out that the lady on the cover is categorically not Eliza but I couldn’t find any information on this cover in the book.
In any case, as much as the nature of the book was a little offputting at first, I did find myself enjoying the injection of emotion and settling in nicely to read this book. We might not know exactly what happened in the closed door parlours of New York City in the 1790s, but we can all easily imagine reactions, and that’s exactly what Mazzeo has tried to do. I enjoyed getting to know the personal Eliza behind her public, if quiet, accomplishments.
Despite these small gripes, I would still recommend to casual historians who want to know more about this extraordinary woman.
If you are a historian or interested in biographies with much more depth and credibilty as well as historical accuracies, this book cannot be recommended . If you are just a "Hamilton-Musical" fan, you can get by with it.