Thursday, June 21, 2018

My Dear Hamilton

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Hamilton. Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. 2018. 672 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the prologue: The promise of liberty is not written in blood or engraved in stone; it's embroidered into the fabric of our nation. And so is Alexander Hamilton. My husband. My hero. My betrayer.

First sentence from chapter one: I was someone before I met Alexander Hamilton., Not someone famous or important or with a learned philosophical understanding of all that was at stake in our revolution. Not a warrior or a philosopher or statesman. But I was a patriot.

Premise/plot: My Dear Hamilton is a novelization of the life of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. The climax is not her discovery of his affair with that Reynolds woman nor is it her husband's death at the hands of Aaron Burr. The climax is her confrontation with James Monroe in 1825. He has come in pursuit of reconciliation, of peace. He has come without apology or humility. Will she put aside their differences and let bygones be bygones? This is where the novel opens--the prologue--and where it climaxes near the end. This is the framework of the novel. (Chapter one begins in 1777.)

My thoughts: I would recommend My Dear Hamilton to anyone who a) enjoys historical fiction b) enjoys American history c) has a love/hate relationship with politics d) enjoys spending time with complex characters e) has spent any amount of time listening to Hamilton.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. I loved it so much I'm almost at a loss of words. Almost.

It is well-written. The writing is compelling and beautiful. "The people we love are not entirely knowable. Even to themselves. But we love them anyway. The only other choice is to live without love, alone."

It is well-researched. For example, I love that the authors tried their best to let these historical figures speak for themselves--using letters to craft some of the dialogue. I love that they documented their choices giving readers a real behind-the-scenes glimpse. What was true? What was fiction? Does the novel's timeline differ from history? Why? What did they choose to include? What did they not choose to include? OFTEN I read historical fiction and I have a dozen or so questions for the author. NOT so in this one. They really go above and beyond here.

It is character-driven and stars VERY complex characters. PERSPECTIVE. This novel is all about perspective AND perception. How do we perceive ourselves? How do we perceive others? Can we ever really know someone else? Can we ever really know ourselves? Do we have to love all of a person to love them at all? Can you wholly love someone--love someone unconditionally? And if you do does that make you weak or strong? What does forgiveness look like? Is forgiveness woven into unconditional love?

It's not unusual for novels about Alexander and Eliza to be ALL Alexander all the time even when the book is supposed to be from Eliza's point of view. I like that Eliza is her own person.  The focus of the novel is the inner life of Eliza Schuyler. We see these events through her eyes--with her heart, mind, and soul. Readers do not witness many dramatic scenes; scenes that are central to the musical Hamilton. Her son's duel. Her husband's duel. Just the devastating consequences of those events. But you don't have to witness the action to witness the pain.

Is the book smutty? No. Yes. Maybe. It depends on how strict your definition is. When sex scenes are relatively infrequent and just take up two or three sentences here and there--as opposed to five or six pages of graphic what-goes-where, I don't consider it smut. I don't necessarily stamp a CLEAN label on it. But I don't find it problematic.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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