Book review: “I, Eliza Hamilton” by Susan H. Scott

by Rebecca Henderson Palmer on January 8, 2018

On the back of the popular Broadway musical, here is a tale of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, wife of American founding father and first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Eliza is the daughter of a wealthy and prominent Revolutionary War general who catches the eye of one of General Washington’s spirited aide-de-camps. Alexander Hamilton is engaging and exceptionally talented, but his lack of wealth and social standing put him at a distinct disadvantage in the Revolutionary Army. Born outside a lawful marriage, Hamilton always has a chip on his shoulder and has grandiose plans to do important things for the young country. He and Eliza marry in the Schuyler’s home and have a close and passionate partnership. Eliza revels in her husband’s love, admiration, and ambitions, but those come at a high price for his family. Alexander is frequently gone for long periods of time, and his government paychecks are not enough to keep up with his colleagues of the landed gentry such as Jefferson, Washington, and Madison. Often on the brink of insolvency, Eliza must balance her husband’s hot temper and grand ambitions against the high cost of living at the center of government. Alexander’s hot headedness ultimately leads to his demise in a duel with Aaron Burr, and Eliza is left to shape his legacy alone.

I am always happy to see the women behind the founding fathers get their fair share of attention. Telling their stories is something that is long overdue. This book, however, suffers from several issues, one of them quite common in books like this. Unfortunately women did not play active roles in the events of those times, so whenever we have a book in first person by a wife, she is simply relaying the action to us. She is rarely a participant, and what we get is a kind of second hand retelling that often lacks suspense and feels more like a recitation. This book compounds that problem by being exceptionally long. I struggled to finish it. You begin to see a pattern of Hamilton’s temper causing issues, Eliza trying to patch things up, and things getting better until Hamilton’s temper gets the best of him once more. This goes on for hundreds of pages, and the result is that any plot momentum fizzles.

Amazon link is here.

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