Friday Book Whimsy: My Dear Hamilton

Probably inspired by the wildly popular musical Hamilton, the novel My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tells the story of controversial United States statesman and founding father Alexander Hamilton through the eyes of his wife Eliza Schuyler Hamilton.

I love to learn history via novels. It is always so much more real to me, and therefore I remember everything so much more easily. It is always necessary to keep the fact that it is a novel in mind so that you don’t assume that every teeny tiny part of the story is true. Eliza Schuyler, for example, simply couldn’t have been as perfect as the story lets on.

Eliza Schuyler was defined by the men in her life. She is the daughter of a strong general who fought in the Revolutionary War. From him she learned to be a patriot, to think for herself, and to do what it takes to help fight for the nation’s independence.

She marries handsome Alexander Hamilton, and then spends the rest of her marriage as his soundboard and his helpmate. Well, except for the times when he was having affairs.

The authors might have spent a bit too much time talking about Alexander Hamilton for a novel that purports to tell the story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. Still, I learned a lot about the early days of the nation’s history, about the creation of the Federalist Papers, and Hamilton’s role.

The pivotal story of Hamilton’s life, of course, is the duel  against Aaron Burr, a duel that he unfortunately lost. The truth about whether or not he wanted to duel, and whether or not he fired a shot remains to be seen. Even in this novel, while he told his wife he didn’t fire a shot, she doubts the truth of his statement.

It’s a good story, if a bit long. Quite a bit too long, in fact. I found myself doing a lot of skimming as the story went on and on. Still, it was a fascinating time in our nation’s history, and seeing the story from a woman’s view is a welcome change of pace.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: America’s First Daughter

imgresWhen I was a young girl, we had a set of World Book encyclopedias. One section of the encyclopedias included information about all of the presidents up to, and including, John F. Kennedy. Subsequent presidents were included in the annual updates we also received as part of our encyclopedia subscription. That section was one of two that I read so often that the book would fall open to the spots; the other was the section on AKC dogs.

I practically memorized everything of at least a personal nature about each president, and more importantly to this review, each first lady. So I was well aware that the wife of our third – and arguably most interesting – president had died long before Thomas Jefferson was elected to office. The role of first lady, therefore, went to his eldest daughter, Martha, known by those who loved her as Patsy.

America’s First Daughter, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, is a novel based on the life of Thomas Jefferson and, primarily, his daughter Patsy.

The story begins during the Revolutionary War when, according to the novel, the Jeffersons were forced to leave their home in Virginia and hide for months in a cabin in the deep woods  Jefferson owned. The stress caused by the war did nothing to help the health of Jefferson’s beloved wife Martha, who died shortly after childbirth. However, prior to dying, she made her eldest daughter Patsy promise to always take care of her father, and made her husband promise to never remarry.

Well, he didn’t, though the story of his long-term relationship with his slave Sally Hemings is well documented, and a major part of this book.

The story is told through the eyes of Patsy, and seems to be well-researched and true to the facts. It is well-known that Jefferson – along with many of our early forefathers – was a slave owner, and that fact – and its inconsistency with the whole all men are created equal belief as laid forth in our Bill of Rights – drives much of the story.

It is a fairly lengthy book, and much of it moved very slowly. I can’t highly recommend it except to those thoroughly interested in U.S. history in general, and the history of our third president in particular. Still, I love period literature, and it was interesting to read about the customs and the relationships during the days following the Revolutionary War.

The book, however, reminded me just what an amazing job our forefathers did in planning our government. Thank goodness.

Here is link to the book.