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A Master Passion, The story of Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton Paperback – 1 Sep 2015
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Well, thankfully Alexander Hamilton wrote so much about himself already that this author was probably forced not to stray too much from the beaten track, even if I personally do not agree with the picture of the Hamiltons’ marriage as an overall frustrating experience on both parts.
On one hand we have an Alexander Hamilton who is depicted as an unrepented flirt all his life, who chases skirts and repeatedly betrays his wife to satisfy his flesh during the times he and his wife are separate (with Maria Reynolds being only the most embarassing and notorious case, one that only gets a few pages and that in my view is never satisfactorily discussed by Alexander and Eliza in the book), a man who never really repents and feels sorry for his infidelities and ultimately only finds peace with his God, but not really with his wife, by deciding to throw away his shot and spare Burr’s life at the risk of his own life and his family’s welfare.
On the other hand we have an Eliza Schuyler Hamilton who seems never to loosen up even after her marriage, whose constant virginal shyness clearly frustrates a man who seems to get her pregnant the few times he manages to coax her into love making while Maria ensnares him with her gymnastics, an Eliza who feels frustrated not only by her husband’s infidelities, but by her lack of selfesteem, especially in her relationship with a brilliant penworm and socialite husband, a woman who manages a household that is so efficient as it seems gloomy and sad for most of their marriage. Having most of the book based on her point of view did not exactly help having a pleasant feeling during the reading.
In this overall depiction, I failed to see where the mutual love that is anticipated on the cover was, where was the passion that made Eliza decide never to remarry and spend the remaining 50 years of her life without Hamilton trying to save his legacy with the only wish to join him in a better world. I do not think the surviving correspondence (and I am not speaking only of Hamilton’s letters to Eliza) and their actions support this picture. Flawed and arrogant as the man was, despicable as his one year affair with Maria was, abominable as his decision to wash his dirty linen in public thus humiliating his wife was, he seems to have loved his wife better and more passionately than I could perceive from this text, just like Eliza seems to have had more spine than to quietly have accepted her husband back in her bed after the disclosure of the affair without a genuine repentace for his infidelity and a great deal of groveling on his part, as seems to have been more than the case in real life.
The writing style is not bad and if you can turn a blind eye on some historical inaccuracies it is not a bad book, better and less disrespectful than "Roan Rose" was with the historical Richard III at least. However, if you are looking for a fiction novel on the Hamiltons, I think that a better research and understanding of what was in the lines of all the original documents we have by and about Alexander and Eliza Hamilton allowed author Elizabeth Cobbs to deliver a more plausible portrait of their marriage, better capturing the spirit of their love in “The Hamilton Affair” than this author could with this book.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Intellectually, Hamilton was a dazzling figure, but also a deeply flawed man who never quite overcame his traumatic childhood. Waldron suggests he was sexually abused as a boy— raped repeatedly by the man who employed him. Although there’s no proof of that, and it’s not something a historian could suggest, for a novelist it makes good psychological sense. Sometimes sexually abused children grow up to be sexually promiscuous adults, which Hamilton certainly was.
There’s less explicit sex in this novel than Waldron's "My Mozart," but there’s enough to suggest the passionate connection the couple enjoyed. The author is also very good in describing the hectic family life of the Hamilton’s and their numerous, very individual children.
The only aspect of the novel that struck me as “off” was the author's portrayal of George Washington as such a frigid, distant figure, and a man who had no rapport with children. She apparently forgot (or didn’t know?) that GW raised his wife’s children and also several of his step-grandchildren, as well as assorted other young wards, and he was devoted to all of them. She also pays little or no attention to the fact that Washington made considerable efforts to include Hamilton among his intimate friends, but the younger man always rebuffed him, and eventually broke with his mentor over a trifle. She doesn’t even include a mention of Washington’s death, which plunged the entire country into mourning!
Bore him 8 children and lived 50yrs. Without him.