Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, you’ve heard about the multiple Tony-Award-winning musical, Hamilton, the sensation of the Broadway season, whose tickets are all but impossible to get at any price mere mortals can pay. If you’ve heard the soundtrack, you know how terrific the music is and your appetite is just whetted to see the real thing, even if you have to wait years.
There is something you can do in the meantime, if you’ve been bitten by the Hamilton bug or if you’ve actually seen Hamilton (you lucky person, you!) and you want to have an idea of how accurate it is to Alexander Hamilton’s real life, or if you’re curious about Eliza Hamilton and her life with and without Alexander.
Of course you could read the source material for the musical, Ron Chernow’s Hamilton, a scholarly (and very in-depth) biography of the Founding Father, but that’s a long nonfiction book (though it would count, for those who are doing the 2016 Reading Challenge, as a biography).
You could also check out Hamilton The Revolution: Being the Complete Libretto of the Broadway Musical, with a True Account of its Creation, and Concise Remarks on Hip-Hop, the Power of Stories and the New America, by Lin Manuel Miranda, which is the next best thing to being at the show and seeing it for yourself.
There is another alternative. The Hamilton Affair, by Elizabeth Cobbs, tells the stories, side by side, of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, from their so different origins (his as a bastard in the Caribbean island of St. Croix, hers as a much-loved daughter of one of the wealthiest New York families) through their meeting and their tempestuous lives together. Hamilton cut a swathe through the Revolutionary War generation, making devoted friends (such as General George Washington) and lifelong enemies (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and of course Aaron Burr). Elizabeth stood by him despite his infamous affair with a married woman which became one of the biggest scandals of the Federalist Era (he even wrote a pamphlet explaining how he’d gotten involved with this other woman and then blackmailed by her husband — try to imagine a modern day politician being that open about his affairs!). The book chronicles their married life together and Elizabeth’s long life after Alexander, in which she shamed the Congress to support Alexander’s children, among other things, and ended up starting an orphanage and essentially raising 160 children in addition to her own.
Fascinating characters, an inherently interesting period of American history, and lovely writing: give The Hamilton Affair a try!