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Eliza Hamilton: The Extraordinary Life and Times of the Wife of Alexander…

by Tilar J. Mazzeo

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1336166,322 (3.9)5
"From the New York Times bestselling author of Irena's Children comes a comprehensive and riveting biography of the extraordinary life and times of Eliza Hamilton, the wife of founding father Alexander Hamilton, and a powerful, unsung hero in America's early days" --
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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
I'm not sure how to start this review. On one hand, I enjoyed the story. On the other, I didn't. I don't like books that claim to be biographies to give voice to the subjects' feelings. Example: "Eliza blushed. It was a beautiful letter." How do you know she blushed? Were you there? These are questions I want to ask the author. I also object to there being no bibliography. There is a notes section, but this only pertains to letters or direct sources where things were quoted. I feel like this is more historical fiction than biography.

However, I did enjoy reading a story that I had previously been unaware of. In all honesty, before reading this book the only things I knew about Alexander Hamilton were that he was killed in a duel and his likeness appears on the $10 bill. This book brought the characters of Eliza and Alexander to life.

A good read, but I would caution those seeking a straight "biography". The author herself states "this book is not a scholarly dissertation". Maybe if it had been, it would've been better. ( )
  briandrewz | Sep 6, 2021 |
This is not a biography. I don't know what it is, because there isn't enough of a "plot" for it to be a historical fiction novel either. I've put it on my biographies shelf simply because that's what I thought I was getting when I checked it out from the library.

There were way too many unsubstantiated assertions about how Eliza felt, who she missed, and what she loved to do for this to be a straight biography. That's because there is simply no way of knowing any of this unless Eliza kept a diary, but the notes never mentioned one. It would be one thing if the book had said something along the lines of "Eliza probably felt like..." or "she must have blushed when she read the love letter" but it didn't, and I found this very frustrating. I don't mind some speculation in a biography, but it needs to be clear what is speculative and what is not.

And this quote near the end was infuriating:

"This book is not a scholarly dissertation. The life of Eliza Hamilton is too lively and exciting for that, and, apart from the author's note here and my extensive citations at the end of the book, I proceed to tell her story without equivocation or hedging." (Page 299). All right, but in that case, the book shouldn't include how she felt unless it's possible to actually cite to either a diary or a letter that she wrote.

In addition, there were some extremely long sentences scattered throughout the book. I found it rather difficult to follow sentences such as this one:

"After just four months of living with the notoriously unfaithful Aaron Burr and suspecting he was squandering her hard-earned fortune on trysts in New Jersey, where, according to one newspaper report, "many a night he wandered around the hillside, breathing in [his young mistress's] ear love and devotion," his stout fifty-eight-year-old bride followed him on one nocturnal adventure and caught him red-faced and red-handed." (Page 272).

Not one but two editors are listed in the acknowledgements, and I'm surprised neither of them spoke up about sentences like that one. Heck, when I was in grade school and showed my mother some stories I had written for fun, she told me when my sentences were too long and needed to be revised. If my mother could tell me when my sentences were becoming Germanic, then surely at least one editor could have told the author the same thing.

Overall, I was very disappointed. If this had been tweaked and sold as historical fiction, I would have been much less disappointed. ( )
  Jennifer708 | Mar 21, 2020 |
This is not a biography. I don't know what it is, because there isn't enough of a "plot" for it to be a historical fiction novel either. I've put it on my biographies shelf simply because that's what I thought I was getting when I checked it out from the library.

There were way too many unsubstantiated assertions about how Eliza felt, who she missed, and what she loved to do for this to be a straight biography. That's because there is simply no way of knowing any of this unless Eliza kept a diary, but the notes never mentioned one. It would be one thing if the book had said something along the lines of "Eliza probably felt like..." or "she must have blushed when she read the love letter" but it didn't, and I found this very frustrating. I don't mind some speculation in a biography, but it needs to be clear what is speculative and what is not.

And this quote near the end was infuriating:

"This book is not a scholarly dissertation. The life of Eliza Hamilton is too lively and exciting for that, and, apart from the author's note here and my extensive citations at the end of the book, I proceed to tell her story without equivocation or hedging." (Page 299). All right, but in that case, the book shouldn't include how she felt unless it's possible to actually cite to either a diary or a letter that she wrote.

In addition, there were some extremely long sentences scattered throughout the book. I found it rather difficult to follow sentences such as this one:

"After just four months of living with the notoriously unfaithful Aaron Burr and suspecting he was squandering her hard-earned fortune on trysts in New Jersey, where, according to one newspaper report, "many a night he wandered around the hillside, breathing in [his young mistress's] ear love and devotion," his stout fifty-eight-year-old bride followed him on one nocturnal adventure and caught him red-faced and red-handed." (Page 272).

Not one but two editors are listed in the acknowledgements, and I'm surprised neither of them spoke up about sentences like that one. Heck, when I was in grade school and showed my mother some stories I had written for fun, she told me when my sentences were too long and needed to be revised. If my mother could tell me when my sentences were becoming Germanic, then surely at least one editor could have told the author the same thing.

Overall, I was very disappointed. If this had been tweaked and sold as historical fiction, I would have been much less disappointed. ( )
  Jennifer708 | Mar 21, 2020 |
Like many, I fell in love with the protagonist of Broadway's biggest hit in recent years Hamilton. The true protagonist of that story is not Alexander Hamilton but his wife Eliza Hamilton. Her life as one of our country's founding mothers brings accolades that stack up well alongside her husband's.

She bore seven children. Mindful of her husband's past and her children's present, she helped found the country's first private orphanage. She helped raise money to fund the Washington Monument. She was close personal friends with Martha and George Washington. She was a noble "Roman wife" whose work directly helped found the United States of America. She loved her family and tolerated her enemies.

Eliza was not brilliant. That was Alexander's part. She had heart, though, and loved Alexander and her family deeply.

Most interesting is Mazzeo's take of the Reynolds affair. The way this tale is traditionally told is that Alexander, while Treasury Secretary, had a sexual tryst with a Maria Reynolds with Maria's husband's full knowledge in Eliza's bed. A love note supposedly corroborated the affair. James Reynolds, Maria's husband, supposedly blackmailed Alexander for money with the threat of telling Eliza.

But Eliza never divorced Alexander and defended him with passion for the rest of her life. Why? Mazzeo contends that Alexander falsified the Reynolds pamphlet to cover up for insider trading. She contends that politicians of his time and enemies of Hamilton's political party (including future presidents James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson) knew this and forced the brilliant Alexander out of politics. Mazzeo even outlines her theory in a closing Author's Note within the book.

Well-written and an interesting profile of one of our founding mothers, Eliza Hamilton tells a story not of a saint but of someone's interesting angle on life. ( )
  scottjpearson | Jan 25, 2020 |
While, I liked this book more than the one I read on Alexander Hamilton, I found it boring in places. I was looking forward to reading about Eliza Hamilton's life after her husband died, but it seemed bogged down in financial worries and family squabbles. Much as I hate to say this, I think I'll stick to historical fiction trusting the authors to get it right. ( )
  eliorajoy | Nov 16, 2019 |
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Love is the whole history of a woman's life, it is an episode in a man's. - Germaine de Stael, The Influence of the Passions (1796)
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For Adelaide, Xavier, and Frankie
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Eliza blushed. It was a beautiful letter. Beyond the window of the front parlor of the Schuyler family home in Albany, the autumn leaves were crimson and gold, and now and then she could catch a glimpse of some small boat or another tacking back and forth, slowing beating its way against the river current.
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"From the New York Times bestselling author of Irena's Children comes a comprehensive and riveting biography of the extraordinary life and times of Eliza Hamilton, the wife of founding father Alexander Hamilton, and a powerful, unsung hero in America's early days" --

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