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

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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. Fans fell in love with Eliza Hamilton—Alexander Hamilton’s devoted wife—in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenal musi 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. Fans fell in love with Eliza Hamilton—Alexander Hamilton’s devoted wife—in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenal musical Hamilton. But they don’t know her full story. A strong pioneer woman, a loving sister, a caring mother, and in her later years, a generous philanthropist, Eliza had many sides—and this fascinating biography brings her multi-faceted personality to vivid life. Eliza Hamilton: The Extraordinary Life and Times of The Wife of Alexander Hamilton follows Eliza through her early years in New York, into the ups and downs of her married life with Alexander, beyond the aftermath of his tragic murder, and finally to her involvement in many projects that cemented her legacy as one of the unsung heroes of our nation’s early days. Featuring Mazzeo’s “impeccable research and crafting” (Library Journal), and perfect for fans of the richly detailed historical books by Ron Chernow and Erik Larson, Eliza Hamilton is the captivating account of the woman behind the famous man.


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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. Fans fell in love with Eliza Hamilton—Alexander Hamilton’s devoted wife—in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenal musi 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. Fans fell in love with Eliza Hamilton—Alexander Hamilton’s devoted wife—in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenal musical Hamilton. But they don’t know her full story. A strong pioneer woman, a loving sister, a caring mother, and in her later years, a generous philanthropist, Eliza had many sides—and this fascinating biography brings her multi-faceted personality to vivid life. Eliza Hamilton: The Extraordinary Life and Times of The Wife of Alexander Hamilton follows Eliza through her early years in New York, into the ups and downs of her married life with Alexander, beyond the aftermath of his tragic murder, and finally to her involvement in many projects that cemented her legacy as one of the unsung heroes of our nation’s early days. Featuring Mazzeo’s “impeccable research and crafting” (Library Journal), and perfect for fans of the richly detailed historical books by Ron Chernow and Erik Larson, Eliza Hamilton is the captivating account of the woman behind the famous man.

30 review for Eliza Hamilton: The Extraordinary Life and Times of the Wife of Alexander Hamilton

  1. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Reading this was an absolute waste of time & I do not understand how the term "biography" can be attached to this. Biographical fiction? Yes. But this is not a biography. The way the author wrote this was incredibly frustrating, starting with the first sentence on the first page: "Eliza blushed. It was a beautiful letter." After reading the first page, I actually checked to make sure this was a biography and not another fictional account of her life. The rest of the book continued this way, Reading this was an absolute waste of time & I do not understand how the term "biography" can be attached to this. Biographical fiction? Yes. But this is not a biography. The way the author wrote this was incredibly frustrating, starting with the first sentence on the first page: "Eliza blushed. It was a beautiful letter." After reading the first page, I actually checked to make sure this was a biography and not another fictional account of her life. The rest of the book continued this way, with the author filling in holes with her own ideas of what Eliza would have said or done in a situation, based on what little we know of her. There aren't a lot of primary source documents authored by Eliza, so most of what the author relies on are other peoples REACTIONS to her letters & actions. Yes, you can make inferences from that, but the fact is that since we don't have letters or diaries from Eliza for the bulk of her life, most of what is written here is sappy conjecture. The theory about the Maria Reynolds scandal was also a bit over the top. (view spoiler)[The author believes the idea that there was no actual affair, and that the Reynolds Pamphlet was just a cover up for Hamilton's shady financial dealings, and that Eliza went along with the deceit to protect the male members of her family from debtors prison. (hide spoiler)] Is that theory true? Maybe. But in making this theory look better, she deliberately left out information about Maria Reynolds that other historians have included in their telling of these events: like the affidavit from the son of Maria's first land lady in Philadelphia, attesting to her wild mood swings & that she would "insinuate herself on certain high & influential characters". In his statement he also stated that the Reynolds' slept in separate beds when they moved to new lodgings, and that "gentlemen left letters in her entryway" and "at night she would fly off as supposed to answer their contents". She also fails to mention that Maria Reynolds went on to marry Jacob Clingman (before her divorce was finalized), who was a friend of James Reynolds, and was arrested with him. But none of this is ever mentioned. She gives the Hamilton Musical version of the affair, and then spends a good chunk of the book giving validation to her theory. But my biggest issue with this book is the amount of time that her post Hamilton life receives: 53 pages. She lived without him for almost 50 years. This section of her life deserves more than a pathetic 50 pages.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kathi Johnson

    I can't understand the high ratings this book has garnered or why it is classified as a biography. The research is sloppy and the fictionalized additions by the author don't add to the book's credibility. The book's publication soon after the Hamilton musical's amazing success makes me question the timing and perhaps the author's motivation in writing the book. Eliza Hamilton was an intriguing personality in history and deserves a proper biography.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Mazzeo explores the life and context of Eliza Hamilton--her family network of wealthy Dutch patroons, the American Revolution, her sketchy in-laws (Angelica and Cornelia picked creeps with whom to elope), the financial boom of the 1790s, Hamilton's status as an outsider favorite of the Washingtons and user of the Schuyler network, the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia and the four decades of widowhood and philanthropy. This is well-researched, but popularly formatted with references in the b Mazzeo explores the life and context of Eliza Hamilton--her family network of wealthy Dutch patroons, the American Revolution, her sketchy in-laws (Angelica and Cornelia picked creeps with whom to elope), the financial boom of the 1790s, Hamilton's status as an outsider favorite of the Washingtons and user of the Schuyler network, the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia and the four decades of widowhood and philanthropy. This is well-researched, but popularly formatted with references in the back, which makes weighing the author's interpretation of things difficult, especially an assertion that the Maria Reynolds affair was cover for financial scandal, not a sexual infidelity.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jan Priddy

    "Aaron Burr was famously louche and horny." What can I say about a sentence combining a high school senior's vocabulary word with slang? Not to mention "a hot bullet tore through Hamilton's abdomen, shattering his rib cage." Nothing actually wrong with either one, except that I found sentence structures like this gave me pause on almost every page. And then the lines such as: "Those words echoed for Hamilton, who lay very still until he heard the quiet breath of his child sleeping." There is no "Aaron Burr was famously louche and horny." What can I say about a sentence combining a high school senior's vocabulary word with slang? Not to mention "a hot bullet tore through Hamilton's abdomen, shattering his rib cage." Nothing actually wrong with either one, except that I found sentence structures like this gave me pause on almost every page. And then the lines such as: "Those words echoed for Hamilton, who lay very still until he heard the quiet breath of his child sleeping." There is no reference for this interjection of interior thoughts and invisible actions and motivations, it is pure guesswork. The author does this often, beginning the first line of the book. Lots of marginally relevant research cited in direct quotations from letters, but then even more pure conjecture that is not at all believable. I wish, if she had actually wanted to write a novelized version of Eliza Hamilton's life, she had not pretended to be writing history. I wish she had made up her mind to tell what is known or at least make up a better story—instead of pretending to do both at the same time. By the end I did not like any member of this family. Putting it kindly, Hamilton was a rogue and his wife was a doormat. As one example, Hamilton may have forged letters supposedly written to him by a married woman in order to avoid being prosecuted for financial impropriety. Or maybe, when he publicly confessed the affair, he was not destroying an innocent married woman's life, but telling the truth and only ruining Eliza's life. He left her $50,000 in debt, in part because he always had her living at some distance from the city where he worked and maybe was having affairs. He praised his wife in letters, =promised for all the years of his marriage that they would be together and they rarely were, though he did manage to keep her pregnant. Perhaps it was Hamilton who was "famously louche and horny." He also bought slaves, and admitted to marrying Eliza for her money, though he did find her biddable and "handsome" but not beautiful. Somehow she managed her family's accounts for years but was completely ignorant of debt or her husband's sexual, political, and money troubles? Why don't I believe it? What was he thinking? Few of the rich men or wanna-be rich men of his era bear close scrutiny. This was supposed to be Eliza's story, but the 50 years she lived after her husband's death are covered in a snap. I was kind of disgusted by the end of it. Also: The family tree at the front of the book is helpful but unreliable. Birthdates in particular are not accurate. One couple seem to have birthed their first child when both mother and father were under the age of 7. Eliza's birthdate is listed as a year after her older sister's. I spent a lot of time on Wikipedia verifying relationships and dates. I did learn a great deal reading this book, but I credit my own reading-between-the-lines and independent research more than this author.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

    So interesting! A great look into her life.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Katelyn

    I loved this super readable biography of Eliza Hamilton. For anyone who can't get enough of the Hamilton craze, or just wants to learn more about a strong woman coming of age with America, this is a great read. My one caveat is that it's told in such a wonderfully readable style (it's not dry at all), that I was a little uncomfortable with the author authoritatively saying what Eliza's reactions to events, etc were. I wish there was more source material from Eliza herself. However, there's just s I loved this super readable biography of Eliza Hamilton. For anyone who can't get enough of the Hamilton craze, or just wants to learn more about a strong woman coming of age with America, this is a great read. My one caveat is that it's told in such a wonderfully readable style (it's not dry at all), that I was a little uncomfortable with the author authoritatively saying what Eliza's reactions to events, etc were. I wish there was more source material from Eliza herself. However, there's just so much you can know about someone and how they felt. I'm glad that I was able to read a biography about Eliza Hamilton. I'd love more on the Schuyler sisters.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alexandria Palombo

    This book gets two stars because of the subject matter - I’d never rate anything involving Eliza Hamilton lower. If you want to read this biography please understand, though, that it is NOT a biography. This is a work of historical fiction couched as a biography by an author riding on the coattails of Miranda and Chernow. The front cover praise indicates that it “reads like a novel” and it does, because it is. I don’t see how a proper historian writes a biography that focuses almost entirely on This book gets two stars because of the subject matter - I’d never rate anything involving Eliza Hamilton lower. If you want to read this biography please understand, though, that it is NOT a biography. This is a work of historical fiction couched as a biography by an author riding on the coattails of Miranda and Chernow. The front cover praise indicates that it “reads like a novel” and it does, because it is. I don’t see how a proper historian writes a biography that focuses almost entirely on how Eliza thought and felt, without historical proof of these things that are unknowable. Far too many creative liberties were taken by the author in filling in historical gaps with her ideas about what Eliza must have done or thought in private, undocumented moments. I’d love to read a true biography about this woman, but this sadly wasn’t it. I wouldn’t recommend anyone else paying for this book that was clearly only written in an attempt to strike while the Hamilton iron is hot by writing a lazily put together book on a woman who deserves much better than that.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joelle

    This was an intriguing glimpse into the lives of Eliza Hamilton and her Revolutionary peers. I’m glad that while this is a biography of Eliza there was a plethora of information about the people who influenced her life and times. I’ve seen plenty about Eliza’s relationship with her husband and sisters, but this book gave me a much more complete picture of her life. I was fascinated by the historic figures she interacted with as well as her unique part of establishing the United States of America This was an intriguing glimpse into the lives of Eliza Hamilton and her Revolutionary peers. I’m glad that while this is a biography of Eliza there was a plethora of information about the people who influenced her life and times. I’ve seen plenty about Eliza’s relationship with her husband and sisters, but this book gave me a much more complete picture of her life. I was fascinated by the historic figures she interacted with as well as her unique part of establishing the United States of America. I highly recommend this biography to American history enthusiasts as well as fans of Hamilton. *I received an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn Bashaar

    My husband and I recently saw the musical Hamilton, and like many people who have that pleasure, I was curious to know more about Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza. This was a good biography, and I understand it is the ONLY complete biography of Eliza Hamilton. It gave me the information I wanted and was written in a very readable, novelistic form. In several places, Mazzeo assumes that she knows what someone was thinking, which is a little jarring in a serious biography, but in almost every My husband and I recently saw the musical Hamilton, and like many people who have that pleasure, I was curious to know more about Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza. This was a good biography, and I understand it is the ONLY complete biography of Eliza Hamilton. It gave me the information I wanted and was written in a very readable, novelistic form. In several places, Mazzeo assumes that she knows what someone was thinking, which is a little jarring in a serious biography, but in almost every case, I felt that the author’s assumptions about her subject’s feelings or thinking were well-researched and probably accurate. It was obvious that Mazzeo not only did research to dig out the facts about Mrs. Hamilton; she also made an attempt to get deep into Eliza’s head, which made the book more interesting to me – and which leads her to a contrarian view of the Reynolds affair. The early American setting is also very well-done. We get a sense for the dangerous frontier that New York state still was early in Eliza’s life, and for the social mores of upper-class life in the early years of our nation’s history. Eliza endures her share of heartbreak and hardship, as well, which made her sympathetic and admirable character. Like my reviews? Check out my blog at http://www.kathrynbashaar.com/blog/ Author of The Saint's Mistress: https://www.bing.com/search?q=amazon....

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Goddard

    What a disappointment. I was so excited to think that at last there would be a biography of Eliza Hamilton. Nope. This is NOT a biography

  11. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    This is a hard one to rate, simply because I almost feel like it should be under historical fiction rather than Biography. I know there are not a lot of source materials from Eliza herself, but I did not like how the author would infer or state things about Eliza that she actually has no way of knowing. For example, saying that Eliza blushed. Really? How did she know that? I think the author took a lot of leeway. Also, the theory the author raises around the Maria Reynolds scandal is interesting This is a hard one to rate, simply because I almost feel like it should be under historical fiction rather than Biography. I know there are not a lot of source materials from Eliza herself, but I did not like how the author would infer or state things about Eliza that she actually has no way of knowing. For example, saying that Eliza blushed. Really? How did she know that? I think the author took a lot of leeway. Also, the theory the author raises around the Maria Reynolds scandal is interesting and she does have some good arguments for why it could have happened the way she states. But I feel like it was a little too one-sided and maybe the author ignored or did not explore other historical documents that back up the traditional story. She was too focused on making her point to address other historical facts that may not have validated her theory. Also, Eliza lived for 50 years after the death of Alexander. But the author does not spend much time on those 50 years. It is almost as if Eliza's life only mattered while she was married to Alexander.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I enjoyed this book, but it read as much like a fictionalized account of someone's life as an actual biography, maybe more so. There were many scenes in which Eliza's (and Alexander's) inner thoughts or physical reactions, like blushing or calmly sighing, were stated as fact-- though they couldn't have been known. The author used a lot of mixed language when talking about enslaved people, some of which does justice to the lives those people were living against their will, but much of which conti I enjoyed this book, but it read as much like a fictionalized account of someone's life as an actual biography, maybe more so. There were many scenes in which Eliza's (and Alexander's) inner thoughts or physical reactions, like blushing or calmly sighing, were stated as fact-- though they couldn't have been known. The author used a lot of mixed language when talking about enslaved people, some of which does justice to the lives those people were living against their will, but much of which continues to white-wash that part of our history. I expect more out of a book written in 2018. I'm also incredibly disappointed with how little of this book (the last ~50 pages) was dedicated to the 50+ years that Eliza lived after Alexander Hamilton died. She lived far more of her life without him than with him, and she did some pretty incredible things during that time. Nonetheless, I understand that Eliza left little original source material and that no one else bothered to keep archives on 18th & 19th-century women. Despite its flaws, this is an enjoyable and interesting read that I'd probably have rated much higher if it was sold as historical fiction instead of a biography.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    The author used research which she then fleshed out into the story of Eliza Hamilton's life. The beginning of the book was about her childhood and then about a third of the way through the book, the scandals started. If you like books about the ways of the world in those days with the balls and the limited opportunities for women, you will enjoy this book. If you liked the musical, then you may be interested in this. I'm not a fan of reading most historical tales, whether fiction or non or of rea The author used research which she then fleshed out into the story of Eliza Hamilton's life. The beginning of the book was about her childhood and then about a third of the way through the book, the scandals started. If you like books about the ways of the world in those days with the balls and the limited opportunities for women, you will enjoy this book. If you liked the musical, then you may be interested in this. I'm not a fan of reading most historical tales, whether fiction or non or of reading stories set in this era. It was good for what it was and my rating is based on my interests. (I received this in a goodreads giveaway.)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael Denton

    It’s a quick read but you quickly tell that the author makes up for the lack of source material on Eliza by filling in the blanks herself. While it’s nice to have the perspective of Eliza and what was going on at home for Alexander there are many times where the read has to ask “how would this author know that?” This would be fine except for her main theory on the Reynolds Pamphlet. This argument is poorly made and relies solely on interpreting Eliza’s behavior instead of attempting to make an a It’s a quick read but you quickly tell that the author makes up for the lack of source material on Eliza by filling in the blanks herself. While it’s nice to have the perspective of Eliza and what was going on at home for Alexander there are many times where the read has to ask “how would this author know that?” This would be fine except for her main theory on the Reynolds Pamphlet. This argument is poorly made and relies solely on interpreting Eliza’s behavior instead of attempting to make an argument based on the texts. It’s then treated as undisputed fact for the rest of the book, to great annoyance.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bea Lynch

    I am so disappointedly underwhelmed by this book. As an American Revolution scholar, and Hamilton fan, I was thrilled to see that Eliza finally had her own biography. However, Mazzeo's citations are limited, and she admits in the notes that she is not writing a "dissertation." Regardless, the creative liberties the author takes bring to question "what is fact?" Mazzeo imagines the unseen interactions between Eliza and her family in ways that can never be proven, and while this brings these histo I am so disappointedly underwhelmed by this book. As an American Revolution scholar, and Hamilton fan, I was thrilled to see that Eliza finally had her own biography. However, Mazzeo's citations are limited, and she admits in the notes that she is not writing a "dissertation." Regardless, the creative liberties the author takes bring to question "what is fact?" Mazzeo imagines the unseen interactions between Eliza and her family in ways that can never be proven, and while this brings these historical figures to life, it also leaves space for her to tell half truths and project the narrative the author wants to tell. While I want to believe her, the facts to back up her claims are just not thoroughly provided. I look forward to a more substantiated biography on this wonderful founding mother one day.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Shoddy research, questionable sources, fictionalized passages, and numerous claims without proof/sources. I can’t finish this book because the author clearly isn’t trustworthy. This is highly disappointing. Eliza deserves better. I hope somewhere there is a scholar writing a better biography of her remarkable life, because I eagerly await being able to read it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    John Behle

    Could not muscle past the first chapter. Tilar Mazzeo whips out a virtual daytime TV soap opera script that is unreadable to anyone looking for history. An obvious capitalization on the success of the musical, I enjoyed consulting Wikipedia for fact checking more than plowing through this sing-song screenplay like work. Tip: next time you are in Manhattan, visit Alexander and Eliza's home on 414 W 141st St. I was there recently on gray winter day. With just the tour guide as company, I easily en Could not muscle past the first chapter. Tilar Mazzeo whips out a virtual daytime TV soap opera script that is unreadable to anyone looking for history. An obvious capitalization on the success of the musical, I enjoyed consulting Wikipedia for fact checking more than plowing through this sing-song screenplay like work. Tip: next time you are in Manhattan, visit Alexander and Eliza's home on 414 W 141st St. I was there recently on gray winter day. With just the tour guide as company, I easily envisioned Eliza gazing out the large windows of their dream house, waiting for the spring.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I've been so curious about Eliza's story and this is an amazing biography of her.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Devon Black

    Written like a novel. Not much discussion of her sources or how she comes to her conclusions, which is important when writing about someone who famously is missing documents.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is fiction - not a biography. The author even wrote the birth years incorrectly on the family tree for Eliza and Anjelica. Do not read. Stick with Chernow.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    I have stayed somewhat clear of the mania around Alexander Hamilton these last few years, but I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway, and I just happen to be in possession of tickets for "Hamilton" in Chicago for next month, so it was time... I recognize that the book I read is an advanced reader's copy, but it seems to me a fair amount of editing still needs to be done. I found countless mistakes, errors in the genealogical chart at the front of the book, and got a sense that the last chap I have stayed somewhat clear of the mania around Alexander Hamilton these last few years, but I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway, and I just happen to be in possession of tickets for "Hamilton" in Chicago for next month, so it was time... I recognize that the book I read is an advanced reader's copy, but it seems to me a fair amount of editing still needs to be done. I found countless mistakes, errors in the genealogical chart at the front of the book, and got a sense that the last chapters had been thrown together too quickly. Hopefully this will be resolved before the first edition hits the stands. There is much about Mazzeo's book to like. She obviously has delved into all the sources she could find, particularly in regards to the Maria Reynolds scandal. Her portrayal of the Schuyler sisters felt especially dynamic; I really got to know these girls, as well as the rest of the family. I would have liked more on Alexander's background (I realize that Eliza is the focus of this book, but we got almost nothing on Alexander before he met his wife). I had no idea that Eliza lived more than half her life AFTER Alexander's death in that famous duel with Aaron Burr. I was impressed to learn of her charitable works and the tenacious way she fought to have her husband's legacy preserved. 3.5 stars.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This was a very quick, and easily readable biography in that it read more like a novel in parts than nonfiction. I appreciate Mazzeo writing this long overdue first full-length biography of Eliza Hamilton and overall found it satisfactory. Oddly enough, the fact that it often read more like a novel was a bit of a detractor for me because it didn't always feel like it was written by an historian.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    ELIZA HAMILTON – Who Tells the Story? http://fangswandsandfairydust.com/201... After the death of Alexander Hamilton, Eliza came into her own. I had recently read another book on my own (I think); a more fictionalized account of Eliza Hamilton but was interested in this biography — a non-fictionalized accounting of her life. There are instances where I wondered if if there is some supposition about feelings and activity – like Eliza’s heart pounding, rushing to dress when Iroquois warriors where m ELIZA HAMILTON – Who Tells the Story? http://fangswandsandfairydust.com/201... After the death of Alexander Hamilton, Eliza came into her own. I had recently read another book on my own (I think); a more fictionalized account of Eliza Hamilton but was interested in this biography — a non-fictionalized accounting of her life. There are instances where I wondered if if there is some supposition about feelings and activity – like Eliza’s heart pounding, rushing to dress when Iroquois warriors where marching towards the Schuyler house or the Army encampment in Saratoga. Biography’s can be dreadfully dull and I very other tend to return them to the library before I’ve finished them. This story, with many quotations from letters is not at all dry. The author refers to the musical Hamilton, by Lin Manuel Miranda, as a starting point for a couple of ideas, such as the scene wherein Eliza burned some of her letters. This is in relation to any role she might have played in the affair Hamilton may or may not have had and the way his coincided with his political and financial life. It was hard to read that Eliza would even have had a part in the affair; in the other novelized book I read, the affair most definitely occurred and was devastating for her. We look at women’s lives at the time and can see, in Eliza’s life both the understanding of her place in the time, an her frustration and anger with men’s behavior. Losing two people to the foolish practice of dueling as a matter of honor literally destroys Eliza’s life. But, the caveat is that we all imagine women of of another time are conditioned with the same societal norms as are we. It is something we have to recall as we read anything, but especially looking back in time and/or across cultures. The story is very readable, and though filled with facts, is not a difficult-to-listen-to audiobook. It’s not difficult to trace the lines from no one event or person to the next. Sometimes in an audiobook it is easy to become lost in the factual information, and without the ability to flip back and forth easily it can be confusing —But not here. January LaVoy, the narrator, has a lovely voice with a natural cadence and as the book would probably sound in my head were I reading it. And without using voices for the characters in Eliza’s life. There’s no “narracting” in this biography. Perhaps the most fascinating period in Eliza’s life begins after Alexander Hamilton’s gruesome death; she lived on for fifty years and she wasn’t sitting on her hands that whole time. After she was finished raising her children, she was able to embark on a life of philanthropy for, essentially, orphans in helping to found the New York Orphan Asylum Society’s first facility. She also made several trips, moved Washington DC, and even traveled to the western frontier! She became a close friend of Martha Washington. Addressing the question posed in Hamilton! the musical: “Who lives, who dies, who tells the story”? the answer may be that, while some of Eliza’s life was about supporting her husband, Eliza’s life told her own story of resilience and courage. Mazzeo helps give Eliza’s story life and women’s lives can be difficult to research, especially when some of their letters are destroyed. She was a remarkable woman, and contributed much to the country in all the ways that were possible for a woman of her age. The well-researched story is well-written, easy to follow in the audio format and nicely chronicles the life of one of America’s founding women. I vote “Aye!” for this delightful biography.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Z

    I won a copy of the finished book in a Goodreads Giveaway! I'm a fan of the Hamilton play and I slogged through Ron Chernow's biography a while back. It was interesting to see the story from the perspective of Eliza, and learn more about her life after Hamilton. There were two fascinating parts of the book: There's actually competing theories about what happened with the whole Maria Reynolds affair, one being the story that fans of the Hamilton play know, the other one being that Hamilton actually I won a copy of the finished book in a Goodreads Giveaway! I'm a fan of the Hamilton play and I slogged through Ron Chernow's biography a while back. It was interesting to see the story from the perspective of Eliza, and learn more about her life after Hamilton. There were two fascinating parts of the book: There's actually competing theories about what happened with the whole Maria Reynolds affair, one being the story that fans of the Hamilton play know, the other one being that Hamilton actually *was* speculating on land, along with many family members whom he was protecting by casting suspicion off with the lurid details. It's not totally crazy: newspapers at the time reported as much, the only source of the correspondence between Alexander and Maria were excerpts he reproduced (with the suggestions that the shitty spellings are off), Maria Reynolds denied the whole thing and while Eliza did burn a bunch of stuff ("let future historians wonder how Eliza reacted"), there is no record whatsoever of her being publicly pissed with the man, and she even defended him during those times and after. Is is true? Who knows? People can and do forgive very public affairs (see also, Clinton, Hillary, though gossip and other records note she threw more than a few things at Bill's head), and Maria Reynolds came off as a massive scumbag in the Chernow book. Part of me wonders if it was wishing thinking an denial on the part of the author. On the other hand, there's ample historical evidence for the author's conclusion, and the book makes it clear that reconstructing what actually happened is limited by the records available, and that's good enough for me. The other fascinating part of the book was getting details on Eliza's mother, sisters and other family members. Chernow mentions that Alexander was the only Schuyler husband to get a blessing from dad for a wedding, and this book provides the details of Angelica, Peggy and the other, much younger one's elopements. Peggy had died fairly young, and that story is there too. You also get details on the many children Alexander and Eliza took in throughout their marriage and the lives of the details of the other ones. There's a full family history here. Possibly because of the modest information available about women, the 50 years Eliza lived beyond her husband feels crammed into the last 35 pages. There were several obvious errors in the family tree at the front of the book, timeline that I have no idea made it past editors! "Eldest" sister Angelica was listed as being a year younger than Eliza, and eldest son Philip, the one who famously died in the duel shortly before Alexander's own death was listed at dying in 1808, four years after Alexander. Oopsie! The last line of the book says she waited 55 years to see Alexander. She waited 50; she died in 1854. Writers can't always math good (probably the largest mistakes I've seen in a book are because of this), but it still makes me doubt some of the rest of the book, because who the hell edited this? What else is wrong that isn't obvious?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jenna Bookish

    "Best of wives and best of women." This was an immensely readable biography. Mazzeo's writing style creates the immersive reading experience of a good novel. While this at times requires her to take certain liberties and to speculate (the book opens, for example, with Eliza blushing in response to a letter she received from Alexander Hamilton), she does seem to draw from what is known as much as possible. Eliza's thoughts and feelings, while not always documented, can often be inferred from lett "Best of wives and best of women." This was an immensely readable biography. Mazzeo's writing style creates the immersive reading experience of a good novel. While this at times requires her to take certain liberties and to speculate (the book opens, for example, with Eliza blushing in response to a letter she received from Alexander Hamilton), she does seem to draw from what is known as much as possible. Eliza's thoughts and feelings, while not always documented, can often be inferred from letters she exchanged with Alexander and others. All in all, some speculation, within reason, can certainly be forgiven in the service of crafting a fleshed-out image of a woman so long lost to history.  Perhaps the most intriguing part of the biography is Mazzeo's treatment of the Maria Reynolds incident, wherein she questions the commonly accepted version of events, made famous once again by the musical Hamilton. The affair is often treated as fact, but Alexander and Eliza's contemporaries were far from in agreement as to the truth of the matter. Was Alexander simply a cheating husband or was the whole affair a cleverly crafted ruse to cover up the illegal financial activities of which he was suspected at the time? Mazzeo argues for the latter. I won't go into detail, as the book will surely handle the material more elegantly than I could here, but one interesting question raised is this: If Alexander had love letters from Mrs. Reynolds to substantiate the affair, as he claimed he did, why would he not produce them? He printed transcriptions of the supposed letters in his pamphlets on the matter, but refused to produce the original documents. Mrs. Reynolds, who vehemently denied the affair, was willing to submit to a handwriting comparison in an attempt to clear her name. Alexander refused. This is just one piece of the puzzle which leads Mazzeo to conclude that Alexander's real crimes were financial, not romantic.  If I had to name a weakness in this book it would be this: Alexander looms quite large in Mazzeo's recounting of Eliza's life. Yes, he was her husband, but Eliza lived to a ripe old age and had half of her life ahead of her at the time of his death, years which were filled with joy, sadness, and endless public works. Eliza was so much more than Alexander's wife.  However, her accomplishments are by no means completely ignored. The book goes into detail about Eliza's involvement in founding New York's first private orphanage, as well as her involvement in public education. Children were Eliza's passion, particularly orphans, a focus likely sparked by Alexander's humble origins. Mazzeo paints a portrait of a strong and compassionate woman.  This is a beautiful and well-researched piece of work which shines a well-deserved spotlight on one of US history's most interesting women. The flowing prose makes this an excellent read for fans of biographies as well as historical fiction, and, of course, fans of Hamilton. 

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    This was an enjoyable glimpse into the life of Eliza Hamilton. If you are a fan of the musical Hamilton and want to know more about the life of the woman who married Alexander Hamilton then you will be interested in reading this book. This book is a straight-forward and well-written biography of the woman who finally gets her story told. Even though the book goes through her entire life, the majority of this biography is written about her time being married to Alexander Hamilton. Eliza was born This was an enjoyable glimpse into the life of Eliza Hamilton. If you are a fan of the musical Hamilton and want to know more about the life of the woman who married Alexander Hamilton then you will be interested in reading this book. This book is a straight-forward and well-written biography of the woman who finally gets her story told. Even though the book goes through her entire life, the majority of this biography is written about her time being married to Alexander Hamilton. Eliza was born in 1757 to a prominent family in New York. The Schuyler sisters were envied and wanted by many men to improve their status. The dynamics of the sisters and the Schuyler family is pretty interesting in and of itself. Her relationship with her sister Angelica is one of my favorite aspects of her story. They were the upper class of this new country and were held in such regard. The women knew their roles and played them accordingly. War was a constant in young Eliza's life and she was easily drawn to the enigmatic Colonel Hamilton. Alexander had said that Eliza was the, "best of wives, best of women" and you can see that while reading this book. She appears to have been a quiet woman who loved her husband more than anything. Mazzeo shows that Eliza was loyal to her husband and followed the examples of wives of royalty before her. Which makes sense as he was an intricate part of the building of our nation and she wanted the focus on him and not on her, as was typical for women during that time and prior. I'm not sure how I feel about the whole Maria Reynolds/financial misconduct aspect that Mazzeo claims in her book. I just feel that Alexander would have had more money when he passed if he was truly doing something untoward financially. It's a new perspective and I give her credit for showing a different possibility to the whole situation. I also wanted a little bit more of her time after Alexander passed away. She lived such a long and productive life after his death. She was truly non-stop in her own way. Sadly, Eliza didn't leave us much from her point of view as she was not a writer and she burned most of her letters to Alexander. It would be amazing had she kept at least a few so we could really understand her love affair with him better. Which is why I found it interesting that Mazzeo would say that Eliza "felt" or "believed" throughout the book so much. I applaud Mazzeo for her research on Eliza's story. You can tell that she takes great care to give a voice to Eliza Hamilton. The women of that time period were amazing and steadfast. This is an excellent read and I highly recommend it for those who want to know more about American history and the women who tried to make a difference. Yes, Eliza was quiet, but she was no less important than others of that time and accomplished and did many things in her life. *I received an ARC in a Goodreads giveaway and this is my honest review.*

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir

    This lively biography by the bestselling author of THE WIDOW CLICQUOT and IRENA’S CHILDREN follows Eliza through her early years as the daughter of a prominent landowner, through her life with Alexander and for 50 years after his death, as she worked to ensure his legacy while looking after her large family and founding New York’s first private orphanage. In her youth, Eliza was one of the famous New York Schuyler sisters who, along with Peggy and Angelica, were feted for their charm, beauty and This lively biography by the bestselling author of THE WIDOW CLICQUOT and IRENA’S CHILDREN follows Eliza through her early years as the daughter of a prominent landowner, through her life with Alexander and for 50 years after his death, as she worked to ensure his legacy while looking after her large family and founding New York’s first private orphanage. In her youth, Eliza was one of the famous New York Schuyler sisters who, along with Peggy and Angelica, were feted for their charm, beauty and fortune. Despite several suitors, Eliza fell for the impecunious Alexander Hamilton, a bastard who had been orphaned and then raised by a wealthy merchant in the Caribbean. He came to New York, where he served as George Washington’s aide and as a soldier during the Revolution, and eventually became the country’s first Secretary of the Treasury. Alexander was a complex character, but despite his many faults, possible infidelities and increasing debts, Eliza was loyal to him in his lifetime and vigilant about his reputation after his death. The famous duel with Aaron Burr that claimed his life (three years after his son Philip had died in a duel in the same spot) threatened Eliza and her family with emotional and financial ruin, but she survived with help from her father and family friends. Eventually she became involved in the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows --- ironically taking the seat held by Elizabeth Seton, until she converted to Catholicism and was asked to step down from the board --- and embraced her new mission. In 1806, the Orphan Asylum Society was founded to create New York’s first orphanage with Eliza as its director. Tilar J. Mazzeo, who has done careful research for this first full biography of Eliza Hamilton, promotes an interesting theory about her possible role in the “Reynolds Affair,” where debate still rages as to whether Alexander was having an affair or hiding financial irregularities. Some may balk at her mixing scholarship with a willingness to talk about Eliza as though she knows what her every mood was (“…her heart felt so much lighter,” “she smiled to herself,” etc.), but others will applaud her ability to portray Eliza as a three-dimensional character. She certainly was an impressive one: besides raising eight children, running two households and starting an orphanage, she traveled west to see her son, William, when she was in her 80s and moved to Washington, DC at 91 after retiring from the Orphan Asylum Society. Eliza died at the age of 97, having had dinner with Millard Fillmore at the While House shortly beforehand. By then, she had long since become a legend in her own right. Reviewed by Lorraine W. Shanley

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ash

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Holy Maria Reynolds Faux Scandal, Batman! Disclaimer: I am obsessed with Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton musical even though I've never seen it, well, legally, that is. Is it wrong to want Lin-Manuel Miranda to redo his Hamilton musical from Eliza Hamilton's point of view with this book as the basis? Tilar J. Mazzeo's Eliza Hamilton: The Extraordinary Life and Times of the Wife of Alexander Hamilton is about what the title implies, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, from the time of her adolescence to her Holy Maria Reynolds Faux Scandal, Batman! Disclaimer: I am obsessed with Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton musical even though I've never seen it, well, legally, that is. Is it wrong to want Lin-Manuel Miranda to redo his Hamilton musical from Eliza Hamilton's point of view with this book as the basis? Tilar J. Mazzeo's Eliza Hamilton: The Extraordinary Life and Times of the Wife of Alexander Hamilton is about what the title implies, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, from the time of her adolescence to her death and everything in between. What I really enjoyed about this book is that sheer amount of research that Mazzeo put into it. She did a great job making Eliza Hamilton into a multifaceted nuanced human being with worries and feelings and triumphs and strengths. I enjoyed learning about Eliza's family especially her older sister Angelica. Wow, so not like the musical at all. She eloped with a gambling ne'er-do-well and her parents forsake her for quite a bit. That piece of family drama was crazy. However, I haven't even gotten to the craziest part yet. In Ron Chernow's Hamilton, which is the basis of the musical, he describes an incident where Alexander Hamilton, Eliza's prolific husband, repeatedly cheated on her with a woman named Maria Reynolds, who is actually a distant cousin of Eliza's, and was later extorted by Reynolds' husband. When Hamilton's cabinet caught wind of money disappearing, he had to confess that he didn't abuse the power of his position, he was just a cad. Hamilton being Hamilton doesn't tell his family first about his indiscretions but rather the world in the Reynolds Pamphlet. Historians don't know how Eliza reacted to the whole affair, however, they do know that she eventually forgave him and helped preserve Hamilton's legacy. What if, however, Hamilton was indeed abusing the power of his position to help out certain family members and others including the husband of Maria Reynolds? And what if he came up with a plan that depicted professionally honourable but personally corrupt? What if Eliza knew al about this plan and made sure she could "write herself out of the narrative" during this time? This is what Mazzeo speculates as it makes more sense with Eliza's character. I'm inclined to agree. Why else would Eliza burn many letters from this time period? Was it because of betrayal or protection? Could she really forgive such a heinous betrayal? Even if she could, would she really spend a good chunk of her life preserving the legacy of a man who embarrassed and hurt her so deeply? Reading about this theory blew my mind. So much so, I told all of my friends about it. Mazzeo's Eliza Hamilton was a very enjoyable read. I thought it was the perfect length. Everything flowed beautifully.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Marco

    What to do about the story of Eliza Hamilton. "Eliza Hamilton" by Tilar J. Mazzeo from Gallery Books. Not much is known about the wife of Alexander Hamilton and on purpose. Eliza destroyed almost all of her correspondence and later, some of her husband's as well. What's left behind is a carefully crafted story that Eliza took decades to bring forward as a biography for her husband. Meanwhile, she tried hard to leave little behind of her own story. To get the full story, biographer Mazzeo had to rel What to do about the story of Eliza Hamilton. "Eliza Hamilton" by Tilar J. Mazzeo from Gallery Books. Not much is known about the wife of Alexander Hamilton and on purpose. Eliza destroyed almost all of her correspondence and later, some of her husband's as well. What's left behind is a carefully crafted story that Eliza took decades to bring forward as a biography for her husband. Meanwhile, she tried hard to leave little behind of her own story. To get the full story, biographer Mazzeo had to rely on other written accounts of her and her family to paint a more extensive portrait. And there were some. Some by suitors of the family or their female relatives which are basically bragging about how easy they are (their words, not mine). It's kind of disgusting and disturbing. Nearly every male mentioned in the book is some kind of adulterer with either other female family members or prostitutes. I want to say something disheartening like "Nothing has changed?" but not all men are like this, but those in power seem to be. It's disturbing to read something that basically has no men worth reputationally defending. What we find also within these pages is a family riddled with scandal, both financial and personal. It seemed everyone was up to no good and that included the Hamiltons. The biggest question of all: Was Hamilton misusing his authority with the treasury and was his affair with Maria Reynolds faked to cover up a serious financial crime? Very intriguing testimony is presented. The story of Eliza would still be shrouded in secrecy, however, even her personal reaction to the Reynolds affair. With lots of innuendo about Hamilton, his politics, his affairs (with possibly his sisters-in-law and men), his temper, it was the woman ever by his side who history forgot while she made sure his lived on. And there in lies the problem with most history on Eliza Hamilton. It has to be inferred or simply filled in because there isn't much to go on. What we do know is that she outlived almost all her and Alexander Hamilton's enemies and was the one who truly made sure he wasn't forgotten - despite what musicals and books would have you believe, most people wanted him erased from history. On the whole, this book does a good job of presenting a look into Eliza's life which unfortunately can't be separated from her husband's for better or worse. A fascinating book about a woman who defied the odds that reads accessible like fiction and is described as the first major biography of Eliza Hamilton.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Scott Pearson

    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 wa 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.

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