The Hamilton Affair

The Hamilton Affair

A Novel

Book - 2016
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Relates the tumultuous true love story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler against the dramatic backdrop of the American Revolution.
Publisher: New York : Arcade Publishing, [2016]
ISBN: 9781628727203
Characteristics: 403 pages ; 24 cm


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May 20, 2020

The story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton has been in the cultural hot seat for a few years now, and it will likely remain so for a while - or at least I hope so. The events of their lives are fascinating, both when they were together and when Eliza herself stood alone after her husband's untimely death.

One thing that I absolutely loved about this book is that it takes the reader into relatively uncharted territory for Hamiltonian fiction - that of Alexander and Eliza's respective childhoods. Nearly all of the others begin their journey in the midst of the American Revolution, as though they were dropped there fully formed (albeit with the occasional reference to earlier times). But here Cobbs goes back further, and delves into Elizabeth's early life growing up as the daughter of a wealthy Dutch family near Albany, New York, as well as Alexander's hardscrabble beginnings in the Caribbean. We are even introduced to Alexander's mother, Rachel Fawcett! Overall, I loved the journey of both Alexander and Eliza's growth into the people they became when they first met. An excellent departure from the path of the other fictional novels I have read about them, and one that really allows it to shine.

Now, that being said, I do have some issues with the book. First, there are some time skips in some very strange and awkward places. While I understand that time skips are necessary to move the plot along, I just feel that the author chose some very strange places to skip.

Second, it seems to me that the characters are holding back or are being held back. We see Alexander think about how guilty he feels for his affair with Maria Reynolds, and yet when he finally confesses the affair to Eliza, I feel very little emotion coming from him. He apologizes repeatedly, and yet I do not find him at all convincing. Even Eliza's reaction seemed restrained somehow. I'm not saying that she should have completely flown off the handle and throttled him or anything, but it felt a bit too muted for me to really find the characters and their feelings believable.

That said, I also loved the wrap up of the story, with Eliza's final chapter where she thinks back on everything that came after Alexander's death and her answering a young friend's questions. One of my favorite stories about Eliza's later years is the one of her sending James Monroe packing when he came to try and make peace with her. Cobbs did an excellent job retelling it, and I literally cackled as I read it!

Again, overall this was one of the better renditions of the Hamiltons' story, one that I enjoyed, even if it's one with some drawbacks. Definitely worth your time.

Apr 12, 2020

Historical fiction with strong reviews and a major award. The Revolutionary War and its aftermath, a tumultuous, defining period of history. A controversial figure now the subject of a popular musical. What could there possibly be not to like about this book?
Unfortunately Cobb does not generate the page turning enthusiasm this story deserves. The writing is generally limp and disjointed. The book’s choppiness is exacerbated by the very short chapters alternating between Hamilton and Eliza’s life.
At times I turned back a page or two thinking I had missed something, only to find the action had glossed over some major event. Years after reading Howard Fast’s “Conceived in Liberty” I can recall his stirring descriptions of the desperate winter Washington’s troops spent at Valley Forge. In contrast, in Cobb’s bland narrative Valley Forge passes by like mere flotsam.
Hamilton comes over as a faultless war hero who then becomes a workaholic monopolizing every positive aspect in the establishment of a country. The parallel story of his courtship and marriage to Eliza has the feel of romantic fiction. She is portrayed as a saint who becomes an unfortunate victim. I found the polarity between heroes and villains in this story was unrealistic and did not help with understanding individual or political motivations. Why did Jefferson oppose Hamilton’s every move?
There are some redeeming features such as the excellent contemporary quotes at the start of each chapter. The story is a revealing catalogue of the opposition to many of Hamilton’s ideas and his grand vision for the country. He was falsely accused of all kinds of wrongdoing, although there was only one true blemish on his integrity. I have no doubt that Cobb has done her research, she just can’t translate it into lively prose and realistic protagonists.
So, despite the education, I won’t be reading any more of Cobb’s books. There are many better authors highlighting major historical events while telling a riveting story rich in interesting and authentic characters.

Sep 29, 2019

Another well-written book by this author. The reader gets a feeling of how people lived and what motivated them. It's good that duels were finally outlawed. Otherwise, with all the division in DC today, we would be reading about a duel every day. So ridiculous how men go overboard about their personal honor

JCLHeatherM Aug 10, 2018

Alexander Hamilton was plagued by scandal his entire life. From a humble upbringing in St. Croix to a tumultuous tenure running the treasury in the United States, Hamilton's extraordinary life left an indelible mark on American history.

Feb 24, 2017

Really enjoyed the detail of how lives were lived and movements of the time. Thanks.

Feb 07, 2017

Due to the title I expected this book to be about the Hamiltons relationship but so much more was included(the whole Revolutionary War and more) that it was TMI. Their relationship was very interesting and unique and enjoyed how much they really loved each other and overcame many many obstacles and intimate struggles. Women in that time period had to made the cloth for their clothes, grow the crops for their food, bring income into the household and have a baby practically every year. Hamilton was gone for long periods of time so she also had to defend the homestead not know if he was alive or dead or when he would be returning and if they had money to run the household.
The politics during and after the Revolutionary War and setting up the government should be required reading for all of us. One, to remind us of what a hard fight our United States government has been; two, how amazing these people were to set up our government with checks and balances and the Treasury Department which we all take for granted and; three that politics have always dirty and crooked and somehow we still have a country of which we all are proud.


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