Book review: My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
As the Broadway hit musical Hamilton wows London theatregoers, it's the perfect time to explore the untold story of the famous American founding father Alexander Hamilton's remarkable wife Eliza.
My Dear Hamilton, the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal and tragedy, is based on thousands of letters and original sources.
This sweeping and remarkable historical novel is the carefully crafted creation of Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, authors of America’s First Daughter, a riveting account of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha ‘Patsy’ Jefferson Randolph, the woman who kept the secrets of America’s most enigmatic founding father Thomas Jefferson.
Here they turn their observant eyes on Eliza, the wife, widow and warrior who supported Alexander’s quest for a more perfect union. After Hamilton’s death, Eliza remained dedicated to preserving her husband’s legacy, reorganising all his letters, papers, and writings with the help of her son, John Church Hamilton, and persevering through many setbacks to get his biography published.
Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York in the 1770s, general’s daughter Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence and when she meets Alexander Hamilton, General George Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she is captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance.
The young couple fall passionately in love despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of the American War of Independence, but the union they create – in both their marriage and the new nation – is far from perfect.
From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the centre of it all, including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and her husband’s betrayal to finally find it in her heart to forgive him.
When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow must fight her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy.
Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she is left with one last battle… to understand Alexander, the flawed man she married, and the imperfect union he could never have created without her.
In this haunting, moving, and beautifully written novel, Dray and Kamoie tell Eliza’s story as it has never been told before, not just as the wronged wife at the centre of a political sex scandal but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.
With its atmospheric, sweeping narrative – all based on immaculate and extensive research – and packed with the outstanding characters who helped to create a nation, this is historical fiction at its very best… fascinating, informative and utterly beguiling.
(Piatkus, paperback, £10.99)