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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. 5 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 5 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.

  5. 5 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.

  6. 4 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

  7. 4 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.

  8. 5 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 married 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. 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. Oh: 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.

  9. 4 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.)

  10. 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    Unputdownable! I had so much fun reading this biography. The author is one of those writers who makes everything so fascinating you're constantly going to back and forth to Google to learn even more about some cool thing you just read in the book. I have to look up what else Tilar Mazzeo has written.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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?

  16. 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. 

  17. 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.*

  18. 4 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

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Irina

    Let me start by saying that biographies are not my go to genre. I happen to win this ARC in a giveaway and was curious about the wife of A. Hamilton. We always hear and read about the men, but the wives of these men rarely share the spotlight. I was so pleasantly surprised by this book, I can't say enough good things about it. The written style is fluid, it was a pleasure to read. The author (Tilar Mazzeo) is able to capture the gist of everyday life for Eliza without burdening the reader with m Let me start by saying that biographies are not my go to genre. I happen to win this ARC in a giveaway and was curious about the wife of A. Hamilton. We always hear and read about the men, but the wives of these men rarely share the spotlight. I was so pleasantly surprised by this book, I can't say enough good things about it. The written style is fluid, it was a pleasure to read. The author (Tilar Mazzeo) is able to capture the gist of everyday life for Eliza without burdening the reader with mundane details. Some chapters are very detailed and we spend a lot of time focusing on certain periods of Eliza's life and towards the end it becomes a bit more scarce. I would like to make one small suggestion that may "enhance" the reading experience once the final book is published is to include, if available, photos of Eliza's residences throughout life. I found the family tree in the beginning extremely helpful and found myself repeatedly checking the connection as new people were introduced. A visual reference of her homes may be nice and we can envision Eliza sitting in the parlor with her embroidery. I definitely recommend this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Macnair

    This is an easy to digest, well written biography that bring to light the story of someone whom most people who saw the musical Hamilton instantly liked. That being said, some of the sourcing is a bit dodgy as many conclusions had to be made based on only one side of the conversation as Eliza most likely did not write letters often (of those she did write, she burned many) and did not keep a diary. That doesn't mean its necessarily incorrect, but the author makes some choices to portray events a This is an easy to digest, well written biography that bring to light the story of someone whom most people who saw the musical Hamilton instantly liked. That being said, some of the sourcing is a bit dodgy as many conclusions had to be made based on only one side of the conversation as Eliza most likely did not write letters often (of those she did write, she burned many) and did not keep a diary. That doesn't mean its necessarily incorrect, but the author makes some choices to portray events as fact when it is really conjecture. The most prominent of these being Alexander Hamilton's affair. The author posits that the affair never occurred, but was just a cover story so that he wouldn't be prosecuted on insider trading. It is fair to question and have this as a theory, but it is far from established fact with most modern historians believing that he did, in fact have the affair. Other than that, the book holds up well and brings much of Eliza Hamilton's life to the forefront of history while otherwise it wouldn't have been told.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Overall a really good book. The writing is easy and the pace is good. This book is clearly written to follow the success of the musical. Not that this is bad, but Eliza did a lot and yet, most of the book focuses on her time with Hamilton. She lived 55 years after he died, yet that’s less than a third of the book. I felt sometimes events were rushed or toned down to give space to other events. Additionally I felt that historical events didn’t always get m I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Overall a really good book. The writing is easy and the pace is good. This book is clearly written to follow the success of the musical. Not that this is bad, but Eliza did a lot and yet, most of the book focuses on her time with Hamilton. She lived 55 years after he died, yet that’s less than a third of the book. I felt sometimes events were rushed or toned down to give space to other events. Additionally I felt that historical events didn’t always get mentioned. The focus was more on the people, which is fine but I’d like to have been able to follow Eliza a bit more with the historical events surrounding her. One a side note: The author does a lot of Eliza “felt”, “believe”, etc and without the footnotes (this early copy does not have them yet) I couldn’t tell whether it was more of what the author knew or believed. Although I had some issues I did learn a lot, and I liked the book. 3.5 stars rounded to 4.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Raine

    This is a beautiful book, well written and has been really researched! I appreciate the fact that Mazzeo also includes her footnotes at the end of the book! I will be interested to look through her research and learn more about the Hamilton's as well as others living during this time. I love to read about history but at times it can be a bit dry and hard to get through. Mazzeo keeps the reader engrossed in the book with not only Eliza's life challenges but also those in her inner circle. I'm sure This is a beautiful book, well written and has been really researched! I appreciate the fact that Mazzeo also includes her footnotes at the end of the book! I will be interested to look through her research and learn more about the Hamilton's as well as others living during this time. I love to read about history but at times it can be a bit dry and hard to get through. Mazzeo keeps the reader engrossed in the book with not only Eliza's life challenges but also those in her inner circle. I'm sure it would have been amazing as well as very scary, and incredibly hard living in this time as a woman! This book is well written, full of information not only on the main character Eliza but also what was going on in what we now call America. I look forward to reading more of Mazzeo's books. Keep up the great work!!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I am excited to have read this biography, it is the "first full-length biography of Eliza Hamilton," and though details of her story will remain subject to speculation, the incredible drama of her story is undeniable. I now understand why perhaps the musical Hamilton has been so successful, I am reminded that our current economic and social outrage over the 1%'rs directing government and the economy is not new and women's struggles, slavery, family strife and survival and the molding of the stor I am excited to have read this biography, it is the "first full-length biography of Eliza Hamilton," and though details of her story will remain subject to speculation, the incredible drama of her story is undeniable. I now understand why perhaps the musical Hamilton has been so successful, I am reminded that our current economic and social outrage over the 1%'rs directing government and the economy is not new and women's struggles, slavery, family strife and survival and the molding of the story of our nation has been continuously evolving. In the author's words, Eliza Hamilton is "not a scholarly dissertation," it reads like a novel of intrigue. Whether you are a feminist, historian, economist, political theorist or genealogist, I am suggesting your time will be well spent reading this biography.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    The book contained a lot of information about Eliza Hamilton that I never would have gotten if not for reading this book, but there were many unnecessarily detailed parts of the book. The author would make the book seem more like a narrative than a memoir, describing Eliza's movements across the floor, describing every little action, and for this reason, I felt like I couldn't read this as it was. It was a somewhat cringe-worthy element to the story, since the author could not possibly know thes The book contained a lot of information about Eliza Hamilton that I never would have gotten if not for reading this book, but there were many unnecessarily detailed parts of the book. The author would make the book seem more like a narrative than a memoir, describing Eliza's movements across the floor, describing every little action, and for this reason, I felt like I couldn't read this as it was. It was a somewhat cringe-worthy element to the story, since the author could not possibly know these things. But the book contained all the parts of Eliza's life that mattered to her, her family, and her legacy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stu Wilson

    This is a very well put together book, easy to read, with great information about the family of Eliza and of course her life with Alexander Hamilton. I enjoyed the back story of the Scuyler family as much as the Hamilton connection because this was new information for me and painted a picture of colonial life and times for another leading family of America that gets little attention. I would definitely recommend the book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tehila

    This is a well-researched and well-written biography of a fascinating woman. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in strong women, U.S. history, &/or just having a really good read in their hands. The only reason it took me so long to finish is that in the interim I’d received a double stack of library books (including two written by Ms Mazzeo) that I needed to finish before their due dates. I received a free copy of this book for review purposes.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bertha

    I'm not a big history buff but this book peaked my interest when I entered the contest to win a copy of this book. I found the book well researched and the story flowed from the first page. The one thing I didn't like was that two thirds of the book was devoted to Eliza and Alexander. The other third of the was about the approximately 55 years she lived after his death. This book would be a good read for those who love history or even those who are into the "Hamilton" craze.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    I am not a fan of biographies, but this was incredible. It read like a novel. I learned so much about our founding fathers, but in a fun interesting way! The author was descriptive without boring the reader. The writing was easy and flowed quickly. All the characters were true to their own diaries, documents, and biographies. I recommend this to anyone interested in history!

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