Happy 2017, and thanks for joining me on my blog!
This review will be my endeavor to surmise half a year of gnawing on the enjoyable contents of a book over 700 pages long. Together with my boyfriend, Josh, I’ve journeyed through Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton biography a few chapters at a time. The legacy of the founding father has boomed in popularity this past year; so, in June, we thought delving into a scholarly account would be a fun long distance activity. After finishing the book, I can say that it most definitely has been.
Ron Chernow is the author of many renown biographies. His works include studies of the Morgan family, the Warburgs, and Rockefeller. He is respected by other prominent historians and authors such as David McCullough, who called Alexander Hamilton “grand-scale biography at its best—thorough, insightful, consistently fair, and superbly written.” The length of the work is daunting, especially to those who, like me, haven’t immersed themselves extensively in historical works.
Here’s my case for why Alexander Hamilton is worth it.
First, Chernow’s style creates a story-like atmosphere, in which he recounts the neonatal stage of American politics. He utilizes beautiful prose and description. His biography is embellished with settings, dramatic encounters, and character sketches. The biographer gives detailed portraits of not only Hamilton, but supporting figures in his public and private life. Chernow foreshadows events and ties plot lines together smoothly, rendering the political scene of the late 1700s/early 1800s intriguing.
Secondly, Chernow serves as an agreeable yet authoritative narrator. As he gracefully integrates a myriad of sources, the author analyzes this research to provide balanced conclusions. At times, Chernow does favor Hamilton a bit, in an effort to depict the founding father’s point of view. For the most part, however, throughout his extensive coverage of Hamilton’s life (from ancestry to the aftermath of his death), Chernow remains ambivalent when contrasting viewpoints of the time and their results.
As a last point, picking up Alexander Hamilton is satisfying simply because of the masterpiece it is. Being able to finish a historical piece this size, and enjoy it throughout the process, made me happy. It’s entertaining to read Chernow’s creative chapter titles along the way: monikers such as “The Little Lion,” “A Grave, Silent, Strange Sort of Animal,” “Dr. Pangloss,” “City of the Future,” “Seas of Blood,” “Sugar Plums and Toys,” “The Man in the Glass Bubble,” “Reign of Witches,” “Pamphlet Wars,” “Fatal Errand,” and “The Melting Scene.” These titles give hints of the creative flourish with which Chernow leads his readers through the full life of a man whose imprint has remained on America since its commencement.
Long story short (and I really mean that), pick up this biography to increase your perspective; enjoy Chernow’s writing to widen your vocabulary; and learn a wealth of Hamilton facts so that, when your social gathering inevitably begins discussing the musical, you can (pun glaringly intended) blow them all away.