2018: Books Read and Another Genius That Got Himself Into Trouble

When I was little, I looked up who shared a birthday with me and it was quite a disappointing list. It was a bunch of people I had never heard of, and Alexander Hamilton. While some of my friends had really cool birthday twins (Abraham Lincoln!), I had a second rate founding father who was never even president. My how perspective can change with age and a little knowledge!

When the musical Hamilton came to Denver, Holden and I were interested in seeing it. I spent 6 hours in the virtual waiting room until my lottery number came up. Have you ever been in a ticket lottery? It is one of the most stressful things ever. Let’s just say that after sitting captive at my computer the entire day, my blood pressure skyrocketing, and unleashing a steady stream of profanity, I didn’t get tickets.

Knowing the musical was based on the Ron Chernow biography, I decided to do the next best thing, and read the book. Perhaps saying it was a life changing experience is a stretch, however I am no longer disappointed in having Hamilton for a birthday twin. In fact, I feel like he rates right up there with Lincoln and Washington. The man was a genius, but like Charles Dickens (read about my devastating discovery here), he sure got himself into trouble. Not only was Hamilton a founding father of a nation, he was the founding father of the American sex scandal.

The Chernow biography is a tome, and there were a few sections chocked full of minutiae of the founding of America that bogged me down, but I’m so glad I persevered. I always had this idealistic impression that while the rag tag Patriots were fighting against one of the best equipped armies on earth, they were destined to win. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I now understand just how miraculous their victory was. There was intrigue and danger from all sides. It was shocking for me to learn that there were “Patriots” who hated Washington and there were plots to assassinate him. I had always imagined him as a universally loved, God-like leader. It was also surprising to learn that the political divides of that day rivaled the political climate in our present time. It was brutal. Friends and family turning on each other over political differences, and lots of dueling deaths resulted. I guess we can be thankful that dueling is no longer an option.

 

Hamilton was Washington’s aide-de-camp, and one of his most trusted advisors. Their histories are tightly interlinked, but after many years together, they had a falling out.  It is stories like this that I found fascinating. I also learned all about Benedict Arnold, whose name is synonymous with “traitor”, but I never knew exactly what he did or why.

I also was very interested in Hamilton’s wife, Eliza. She was a remarkable woman. She lost not only her husband in a senseless duel, but also her first born, 19 year old son two years prior, while he was defending his father’s honor. I enjoyed My Dear Hamilton immensely, and it is an excellent complement to the Chernow biography, although there were a few grammatical errors that made my skin crawl. Eliza’s indirect involvement in the founding of America was quite significant.

The Hamiltons lived on Wall Street in New York City for many years. I’m embarrassed to admit that I did not realize so much of the American Revolution was fought there. We have visited NYC and New Jersey three times, and have missed seeing many of the important sights simply because I didn’t know they were there, although we did accidentally stumble upon the building that served as Washington’s presidential mansion in 1790. I now have a list of places to visit on our next trip to the Big Apple and surrounding areas.

Hamilton made many enemies with his outspokenness, some of them very powerful men (Jefferson, Adams, Monroe, Madison), and while he had been rivals with some from the start, there were some including Aaron Burr, whom he and Eliza had been friends with. The betrayal of their former friends was very painful to them, and even after Alexander betrayed her with the sex scandal, Eliza remained fiercely loyal to him. Their stories are very complex, intriguing and perfect examples of truth being stranger than fiction.

We are now watching the series “Turn: Washington’s Spies” on Netflix and while there is some artistic license taken, it is mostly based on factual events and people. It underscores how treacherous the times were and once again, the miracle that America exists.

Happy New Year!

2018 Books:

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd – Jim Fergus

Origin – Dan Brown

Prayers for Sale – Sandra Dallas

Tips for Living, A Novel of Suspense – Renee Sharfransky

Say Goodbye for Now – Catherine Ryan Hyde

The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories – Ernest Hemingway

The Women’s War – Alexandre Dumas

Commonwealth – Ann Patchett

Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty

East of Eden – John Steinbeck (second reading)

Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood

In the Unlikely Event – Judy Blume

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye – David Lagercrantz

A Column of Fire – Ken Follett

The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty

Alexander Hamilton – Ron Chernow

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton – Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie

Before We Were Yours – Lisa Wingate

The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis – J.D. Vance

The Secrets of Mary Bowser – Lois Leveen

The Lines We Leave Behind – Eliza Graham

Beautiful Exiles – Meg Waite Clayton

The River Widow – Ann Howard Creel

Macbeth – William Shakespeare

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

12 Comments on “2018: Books Read and Another Genius That Got Himself Into Trouble

  1. I am so moved by this post and others I have read. You make me think, feel and laugh. I treasure history as it reveals much and when we pay attention it can help make much meaning today. You are a gifted writer my friend. Love always, Teresa

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Reader Theresa commented, “You make me think, feel, and laugh.”

    That would indicate that this brilliant post conveyed the aura of ‘Hamilton’ to her. A famous quote says, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” The Hamilton Musical amazingly packs ALL that into 2h 45m. I wish for everyone many opportunities to see the show.

    The Chernow work stares at me from the bookshelf. I’ve added “My Dear Hamilton” to my Goodreads list thanks to your link. I suggest reading Washington’s actual Farewell Address, which I found to be “politics made poetic, … beauty of word and carefulness of thought.” It is featured in the musical, and even more stirring in print.
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/617484.George_Washington_s_Farewell_Address

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for this great comment, Doug! I am hopeful I will see the musical one day. I’ll most definitely check out the farewell address. The writing of it is an important plot point in “My Dear Hamilton”. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Happy New Year!

      Like

  3. What a fascinating read! There’s always so much more going on than the history synopsis leads us to believe. My husband has shown me several of the places related to the revolutionary war, including Alexander Hamilton’s grave at the top of Wall Street, in the Trinity Church graveyard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so jealous! We’ve been to Grant’s tomb, but I didn’t even know of Hamilton’s grave when we were there. He spent a lot of time on Wall Street. I have a huge list of places to visit when we next visit NYC. You could do quite a blog post on the revolutionary history in NYC. 🙂

      Like

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