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I, Eliza Hamilton Paperback – September 26, 2017
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“Scott expertly handles the complex history and complicated romance, moving the personal and political plots briskly…Readers will be captivated by the affecting portrait Scott has painted of Eliza as an American patriot who was witness and counsel to Alexander’s enduring legacy.” - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Scott’s devotion to research is evident, and those who enjoy learning about history through fiction should find this to be a rewarding take on a fascinating historical couple.” – Library Journal
“I, Eliza Hamilton is going to be your next Hamilton obsession." – Bustle
“With the recent popularity of Alexander Hamilton comes the much deserved interest in his wife, Eliza. We've heard so much about Hamilton's story (thanks to his endless writings), but Susan Holloway Scott has introduced Eliza's voice into the mix. This piece of historical fiction tells the true story of Eliza Hamilton in a narrative that captures both her kindness and strength.” – Gillian Pensavalle, The Hamilcast: A Hamilton Podcast
“While you’re waiting for Hamilton tickets, or if you’re obsessed with American history, this is the book to read this fall. Scott…brings a fascinating woman and tumultuous era to full-fledged life. The lavish details and meticulous research add resonance to Eliza’s voice as she relates the story of her marriage. The sensitive portrayal is a testament to the Hamilton’s abiding love and strong relationship, and proof of one woman’s courage.” - RT Book Reviews
“Based on solid research, Scott’s novel is packed with political and historical as well as domestic details.” - Booklist
“One of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.” –The Reverie Review
About the Author
A frequent speaker at museums, colleges, and historical sites, Susan also maintains a world-wide following on social media through her blog, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. She is a graduate of Brown University, and lives with her family outside of Philadelphia. For more information about Susan and her books, visit her website at www.susanhollowayscott.com.
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I was very excited to read I, ELIZA HAMILTON, a book that promises "behind the most timeless of heroes stands an exceptional heroine."
I love historical fiction. I write historical fiction. And, like millions of other people, the musical HAMILTON sparked an interest in the Schulyer sisters. I figured this book would be right up my alley.
I was wrong and very disappointed.
I do want to begin, though, by saying that the story is extremely well-researched and meticulously detailed. I am extremely impressed by the scope and the knowledge shown here. The settings are exquisite. However....
"Who lives, who dies, who tells your story." Great words from the musical, yes? I wish Susan Holloway Scott had put more thought into the idea behind those words.
Ultimately, this is NOT a book about Eliza Schulyer Hamilton. It is the story of Alexander Hamilton AS TOLD BY Eliza. That's an important distinction.
From the first chapter, the reader is bombarded by the minutiae of Revolutionary War politics, the war itself, and gossip. We hear, in some detail, about Eliza's parents and sisters (Angelica and Peggy), but virtually nothing about her brothers except that they existed. We learn nothing significant about her childhood and the story itself begins when she meets Alexander Hamilton.
What follows is 400+ pages of a name-dropping Who's Who of the Revolutionary War and the early years of the United States. As Eliza wasn't directly involved with most of the events and people, she can only relate everything she heard/learned from other sources and it is tedious at best. There are interactions that feel very wooden and forced, as if they were only included so that a scandalous story can be relayed (i.e, the meeting with Peggy Arnold, so that the story of Benedict Arnold can be told).
Eliza exhibits no real agency and few thoughts of her own. Her sole purpose in this book seems to be to rave and swoon about how marvelous Alexander is, how smart, how kind, how much they love each other, and how he can do no wrong. It's 400+ pages of schoolgirl gushing, ad nauseam. We learn very little of their children, with the exception of Philip and Angelica and when some of the others were ill. It's all about Alexander.
The most significant events of the Hamilton marriage (the Reynolds Pamphlet, the death of their son Philip, and Alexander's death) are crammed into the last 55 pages (not counting the 1-page epilogue and the afterword). Philip and Alexander's deaths, surely some of the most devastating events Eliza ever dealt with, are delegated a mere 10 pages of coverage.
Eliza lived for 50 years after Alexander died. In a book that claims to be about her, those 50 years are only covered in a 7-page afterword. That's it. Her fate, the fates of her children, her charitable endeavors, more than half of her life, all pushed into an afterword.
If you are wanting to read a fictionalized, meticulously detailed, re-telling of Alexander Hamilton's life, then you will probably enjoy this. If you are in search of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton's tale, you will most likely be disappointed.
Eliza deserves better.
The era of our nation’s founding is my favorite historical period, and there is no historical figure whose life story fascinates me more than Alexander Hamilton. And since discovering the stunning musical "Hamilton" (and the Ron Chernow biography which inspired it) I have been most curious about his wife Eliza – or his “Betsey,” as he called her. I have enjoyed getting to know her by reading the letters Alexander wrote to her (and to their children) throughout their life together – they give such intimate insight into their remarkable relationship. When I first heard, then, about Susan Holloway Scott’s "I, Eliza Hamilton," I was understandably more than a little intrigued.
I was very fortunate to have received an advance copy of the book, and I was not in the least disappointed. Told in the first person by Eliza herself, the story has been deeply researched and is richly detailed, without sounding like an academic biographical study. There is a cinematic quality to the writing, especially the dialogue, which makes it easy to visualize the unfolding events of that dynamic time during which a new nation was being fashioned, with no guarantees it would survive its earliest years. Eliza’s narrative speaks directly to us readers, as if we were sitting with her, listening to her tell us the story of her life with her most brilliant of geniuses, whose best qualities – his directness, his honesty, his generosity – could also be some of his most problematic and troubling. The dialogue is never stilted, yet manages to somehow convey the voice of some of Alexander’s original letters to her. Their deep love for each other is depicted with great sensitivity, from their breathless young courtship through the times of their later trials. There is an authentic eighteenth-century tone throughout the telling which makes it a pleasure to read (even out loud, as I sometimes found myself doing).
"I, Eliza Hamilton" is the story of a marriage, of a remarkably strong relationship between two very different people who seem to have been fated for one another. Alexander’s brilliance and genius are never downplayed, yet his flaws are unflinchingly depicted as well. Eliza is a strong woman, very supportive of her husband, but with a mind of her own, never fawning. Their marriage survives extreme challenges, only to end in a tragedy which is the stuff of American legend.
The author obviously cares very much for her characters, and has presented their story in a most sympathetic, readable manner. There were many joyous moments during which I found myself smiling or laughing out loud, and there were also a number of absolutely heartbreaking moments, during which (I’m not ashamed to say) I shed copious tears, even though I knew what was coming. In short, Susan Holloway Scott’s "I, Eliza Hamilton" met and exceeded all my rather rigid requirements for good historical fiction. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in the beginnings of our American identity, and in the story of the man who did so much to forge that identity, and, more importantly, of the woman who supported him in so many ways.
--- "Eliza Schyler is a a twenty year old woman who helps entertain guests whenever they visit her father's house. One day, a cocky young man comes over, name Colonel Hamilton. Though not impressed with Hamilton at first, Eliza develops a fondness for him. Two years later, the pair is reunited and eventually fall in love. Throughout the novel, it describes their love, marriage, struggle, family, children, and even deaths. This is an amazing book about Eliza's life, written in a diary-type format with facts from the moment that Eliza first met Hamilton until the time of his death. I am a HUGE fan of the musical Hamilton, and my favorite character is Eliza, so it was really exciting to read more about her. This book gives a lot of information about the whole Schyler and Hamilton family. It made me cry when Eliza's husband died! This book made me love them even more. It also had background on James Madison, Marquis de Layfayette, John Laurens, George Washington -- and made me dislike Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, more, ha! I wish there was more information about her childhood, and her life after Hamilton died, but that's the only thing I would change. I would really recommend it to Hamilton fans and anyone that likes historical fiction. I do think it is better for ages 12+ because of some of the content and the length of the text. Such a great novel!"
Top international reviews
Let me start by saying that, as a Brit, I had no idea who Alexander Hamilton was; in fact, the first I’d heard of him was the musical - which I haven’t seen. The book came up in my recommendations as a result of watching ‘Turn’ on Amazon Prime (an excellent series about George Washington’s ring of spies during the American War of Independence). So I started reading this book with a completely open mind. Mindful of the fact that he’s obviously viewed as an American hero, I found him a hard man to like. He came across as being very arrogant; he was always right ..... everybody else (Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe to name but a few) was wrong. And he seemed to waste no time letting them know this. When John Adams became President, Hamilton apparently wrote to him giving him (Adams) the benefit of his advice on a number of matters, and telling him how he should run things; unsurprisingly the new President wasn’t keen on being lectured in this way, but Alexander Hamilton took umbrage (again). He had a way of upsetting people; if he didn’t like the way they were doing things he would write critical letters to the newspapers, using the names of ancient Greeks as his pen-name. Apart from his arrogance, he seemed a very self-centred man; no surprise that his eldest son met a premature end (aged only 19) as a result of a duel when he had seen his father ‘demand satisfaction’ on multiple occasions. That was also to be Alexander’s undoing, when he was fatally injured in a duel with Aaron Burr (another name that was new to me). After a life of expenses outweighing income, he left Eliza and their children (7 or 8 - I lost count) in precarious circumstances; apparently he assumed her father would step up and support Eliza if anything happened to him, but that didn’t happen because Eliza’s father followed Alexander to the grave within a relatively short time. For all the love he professed to have for Eliza, he didn’t give too much thought to her and his children’s security before going off to fight his duels. (He apparently aimed above Burr’s head, which proved to be a mistake because Burr had been practising and clearly didn’t intend to miss!).
Eliza was a loyal and devoted wife, forgiving him everything - including his dalliance with Mrs Reynolds. Such was her loyalty that she lived out the rest of her life (50+ years) as a widow, constantly trying to keep his memory alive to other people.
So, an interesting book but a main character (the book is more about him than Eliza) who I thoroughly disliked!