Alexander Hamilton

The story behind the man. A fascinating insight into the whole story which just can’t be captured in the musical.

Book title

Alexander Hamilton

Author

Ron Chernow

Standalone or series?

Standalone, although Ron has also written biographies of other leading figures of this time.

First time reading this author?

Yes

Why I picked this

Playing the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat I wanted to find out more of the true story which inspired the musical.

Review copy or purchase

Purchase

What it’s about

The inspiration for the award-winning Broadway musical Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton’s place in the history of the independent America was largely forgotten in the common understanding of who founded the country. He was an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan who through a combination of luck and a prodigious work ethic and intelligence worked his way up to being the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.

Review

Like a lot of readers I picked up this book to find the answers to all the questions I had after watching Hamilton the musical.This is a fascinating biography, which while clearly written by someone who admires Alexander Hamilton, is still able to address his faults.

Reading in the 21st century it’s striking how many similarities there are between the politics and politicians of Hamilton’s time, and those of today. Hamilton himself lives on in the impassioned politicians who mean well, but let their passions blind them to the necessity of compromise and who often fall at the last hurdle. Meanwhile the successful politicians are those who know how to play the game, and despite being part of the privileged elite somehow manage to convince voters that they are people just like them, despite the disparity in lifestyles.

While the story of Hamilton’s life is much broader and more complex than can be portrayed in a musical, it is fascinating to read this as the book which inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda. The phrases from the book or from Hamilton’s writings quoted here which appeared as titles and lyrics do jump out from the page. I suspect that’s mostly Lin-Manuel’s genius, but it’s fun to imagine which parts leapt out to him as the inspiration for the fantastic musical about the life of a maligned and largely forgotten character of early modern America.

I really enjoyed this read, although be warned it is an epic tome. I found listening to the audiobook on long dog walks the best way to make it through this. I’m glad I did and got to find out more about who Alexander Hamilton was.

Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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