I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott

Eliza Schuyler meets young Alexander Hamilton at a soldier’s ball in the early days of the American Revolution. Hamilton is an immigrant without family and means, but he has given himself a name as the aide-de-champs of General Washington. Eliza and Alexander fall in love instantly and get married in the middle of the war. Her friends and sister Angelica immediately warn her about her husband’s ambition, but Eliza is not looking for a dull life.

I usually don’t read historical fiction set in America but I was really looking forward to reading this in the hope of learning more about Eliza after seeing the musical Hamilton. Yes, the musical did this to me. And I’m not ashamed. Fiction, either as a novel, a play or a movie can introduce us to characters and events that would otherwise remain unknown.

Having finished ‘I, Eliza Hamilton‘, I must admit that I’m a bit disappointed. In this book Eliza is so head over heels in love with Hamilton that the whole novel, and it is quite a daunting book, is an anthology about her husband’s achievements and gentle nature.

Eliza either doesn’t see his faults or sweeps them under the carpet. She immediately develops a grudge against his political opponents and eagerly awaits his return every time he’s away from home. I had hoped for a book about the woman Eliza and her view of things, but I got a kind of retelling of the musical. When also the famous affair was soon forgotten in Eliza’s mind (all one big plot to ruin Hamilton politically), my resentment towards their perfect love match grew.

Scott writes quite well, but doesn’t know the principle of show don’t tell. There’s a big focus on politics and their relationship, leaving little room for side characters. Angelica is well developed, but Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Burr… they all remain in the background.

The historical note is sublime and the best thing about the book. Scott clearly did her research and I appreciate that. She just has a different vision of writing historical fiction from a woman’s point of view. Too bad, I hesitate to read another one of her books about a woman I know less about.

Have you read anything by Scott or about the American revolution?

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